HIPAA Compliance Training – 3 Must Include Subjects

staff around table HIPAA compliance training

HIPAA compliance training is a must!  It is essential to evaluate current best practices and determine where you need to make changes. If your organization handles protected health information (PHI), it needs to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A substantial component of compliance involves a thorough and up-to-date HIPAA compliance training program for your staff.


What is PHI under HIPAA?

Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, PHI must be kept secure. It refers to sensitive patient data that is created, maintained, received, or transmitted by an organization. It includes demographic and health data, such as names, addresses, social security numbers, birth dates, health conditions, treatments, payment information, and more.


What 3 subjects should be included in HIPAA compliance training?

The HIPAA guidelines leave the training content at your discretion. However, you should at least include the following major topics:

  1. What is PHI? Start your training by outlining the sensitive data your employees come in contact with.
  2. Why do we need to protect PHI? Share examples of the consequences of data breaches. You can also explain the importance of protecting your patients and keeping their privacy safe.
  3. How can you protect PHI? Most data breaches occur not due to malicious intent but because employees unknowingly leak information. However, the government does not view ignorance as an excuse. You must train your employees on all the correct ways to handle PHI.

You may address the following:

  • How are sensitive data protected from inadvertent breaches, for example, when photos posted on social media have patients’ information, including their names, viewable in the background?
  • How can employees protect against security threats to data?
  • What are the consequences of failing to uphold the privacy rule?
  • What are patients’ rights, and how can PHI be disclosed?
  • What can employees do if a breach is discovered?
  • Who should employees report to if they see a risk that could lead to a potential violation?


Who needs HIPAA compliance training?

In short, organizations that deal with PHI need HIPAA training. Noncompliance can result in severe penalties from the government. HIPAA defines these organizations as covered entities and business associates.

Covered entities include healthcare providers, health plans, and clearinghouses. They cover doctors, clinics, hospitals, dental offices, HMOs, and health insurance companies.

Business associates, on the other hand, are a little bit tricky to define. These are companies that provide services to healthcare providers. They include lawyers, shredding services, accountants, or transcription services. Vendors of business associates with access to PHI must be compliant as well. Even if vendors or subcontractors can’t view the PHI, like in the case of a data storage vendor that keeps it encrypted, they should still comply with the HIPAA rules.


Is HIPAA compliance training mandatory?

Yes, HIPAA training is required by law. If you’re managing PHI, you must provide HIPAA compliance training to your employees. This is true for every covered entity and business associate, regardless of size or annual revenue. Whether you are a large national healthcare provider or a rural doctor with a few employees, you should provide this training.


What are the benefits of training beyond meeting HIPAA requirements?

Beyond avoiding stiff fines and lengthy government inquiries, it is best practice to protect patient data by complying with the HIPAA security and privacy/breach rules. Training staff helps create an organizational culture that puts patient safety first. It increases organizations’ awareness of the risks associated with handling PHI, and it equips your employees with the knowledge they need to protect patient privacy. Complete a HIPAA  audit to be prepared


How often should HIPAA training be done?

HIPAA leaves the decision to you regarding the frequency of providing your staff with compliance training. It recommends regular training but doesn’t give a definite timeline. As HIPAA regulations are often updated, though, you should consider annual refresher courses at the least. In fact, substantial changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule have been proposed. These changes would most certainly require an update to employee training.


Steps to begin a training program.

Whether you are starting from scratch or evaluating your current HIPAA training program, there are certain steps you need to follow.

  • Find out your organization’s status by completing a HIPAA risk analysis.  A risk assessment can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your policies and procedures. It can uncover possible breaches and help you create a robust HIPAA compliance program.
  • Design the training. Decide what to include in your training and how to deliver it. Keep the sessions short, improving information retention. Don’t quote long passages from the HIPAA regulations, but provide real-world examples of how employees must behave.
  • Include senior management in the training course. Even if they aren’t in the day-to-day business of handling PHI, their presence will emphasize the importance of the training.
  • Assess your employees’ learning. HIPAA training is ongoing and is more than having one workshop once a year. You need to assess what your employees have learned and ensure that they are following best practices.


What do you need to get your HIPAA compliance training program rolling?

The methods and information you use in your training program will vary. There is no one way to do it. HIPAA leaves these open so that the needs of each organization can be taken into account.

Further, creating a training program is not a one-time event. With each new HIPAA update, your HIPAA compliance training must be updated as well. The Fox Group can help get you started with its HIPAA compliance checklist 2021.

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