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Top Reasons for HIPAA Breaches and How to Avoid Them

The top reasons for HIPAA breachesSince HIPAA was enacted over two decades ago, the top reasons for HIPAA breaches have remained constant. Even with the possibility of incurring hefty fines, which have exceeded billions, healthcare organizations continue to be vulnerable to HIPAA related threats.

The top reasons for HIPAA breaches continue to include:

 - Hacking
 - Lost or stolen devices
 - Improper disposal of devices
 - Employee dishonesty
 - Third-party (or business associate) disclosure

To be proactive and avoid possible HIPAA violations, it’s important to be aware of these issues and communicate them as effectively as possible. Educating others about common HIPAA violations can help diminish occurrences, but training for HIPAA must be done efficiently and, most importantly, consistently to be effective.

Training which includes employee and business associate involvement can increase retention of the information being presented. One of the most effective training techniques is done through role playing by assigning employees specific tasks to carry out in a team environment. The team works together to accomplish a common goal which can encourage communication about the importance of possible HIPAA violations. This type of training also encourages awareness about possible dishonest employees or business associates. Other, more traditional, training can be done in a classroom setting, once a quarter, or, preferably, more frequently if time allows.

Another way to ensure the people in your healthcare organization are HIPAA-aware is through on-going, weekly, email communication. This can include notices about well-known breaches in the news such as the recent “Wanna Cry” ransomware attacks. These notices can be a reminder to employees to follow important HIPAA guidelines on a regular basis. Technology alerts within commonly used software have also shown to be highly effective. For example, setting pop-up reminders to backup important data on a consistent basis can thwart ransomware attacks.

Hardware used by employees outside of the office or hospital can be equipped with software to disable it should the device be lost or stolen, however, timing is key. So, this is not always as effective as an aware employee who knows the importance of keeping devices secure inside, and outside, a work setting. Providing clear instructions on how to dispose of hardware containing sensitive, HIPAA-related data is imperative as well, yet not having a specific process and procedure in place for hardware disposal can make it confusing to some employees.

The top reasons for HIPAA breaches are not unavoidable if employees are kept alert and involved. Most people affected by these types of breaches are not those whose jobs involve cyber security on a regular basis. This is why hackers and thieves find it so easy to boldly prey on a healthcare organization’s vulnerabilities. However, as technology evolves and most healthcare organizations are utilizing it more and more, there is a greater threat for a breach. This is why it can be much more cost effective to hire a company such as Data Fast Solutions, who specializes in HIPAA security, rather than be faced with high fines and fees for a breach that could have been avoided rather easily.

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