Patient records, 15,085,302 in total, were breached in 2018 as per the latest Protenus 2019 Breach Barometer Report. This total number of affected patient records is triple the 2017 data (5,59,438 affected patient records).
Stealing Protected Health Information (PHI) is fast becoming a lucrative business to cybercriminals. They have almost doubled the number of cybersecurity attacks to target valuable healthcare data. In fact, CNBC reported that your social security number and credit card information might fetch $2 and $10 respectively on the black market while your electronic health record (EHR) could go for up to $1,000.
Today, even as most DMEs and HMEs count on remote medical billing services providers using the SaaS environment, they are themselves now more vulnerable than ever to cyberattacks and data thefts. Choosing a HIPAA compliant company benefits healthcare providers, not just through low-cost efficiencies, but also by strengthening the privacy and security protection for health information of the patients. Not only is privacy at stake but also the security of personal information, which could be used for medical identity theft and other illegal purposes.
So, let’s discuss the need for choosing a HIPAA compliant medical billing partner to protect electronic health information and ensure regulatory guidelines.
DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMPLIANCE
Organizations, like DMEs and HMEs, and business associates, like medical billing companies, have a direct responsibility to address healthcare privacy and security. The HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule requires \ any firm that handles protected health information (PHI) or ePHI (electronic PHI), on the covered entity’s behalf, be directly responsible for compliance. The firm could be fined for violations accordingly. Thus, all the covered entities must comply with the rules and regulations under the HIPAA or be subject to penalty.
In 2018, HHS collected a record $28.7 million from healthcare providers and insurers for inadequate responses to data breaches and HIPAA violations.
Thus, given the complexities of today’s high-tech methods of communication, data sharing, and data storage, it’s more important than ever that healthcare organizations utilize HIPAA compliant technology and best practices.
ENSURES MORE TRANSPARENT HEALTHCARE
In an age when personal security is of utmost priority, HIPAA regulations ensure the patient shares data in full faith to a healthcare provider with an assurance that it is kept secure.
- Patients health information stays confidential
Patients are more likely to be transparent if their personal health information has the highest levels of privacy and security. An assurance that their medical billing information is carefully guarded allows them to be candid and honest with their physicians, which is an important element of the relationship.
- Improves patient satisfaction
HIPAA fosters a culture of compliance and a common understanding of handling patient information in the right way. Ensuring necessary practices and measures allows you to create a virtual firewall against intrusion. This improves patient satisfaction and also protects the organization and staff from personal liability.
NON-COMPLIANCE OF HIPAA: COSTLY AND FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES
Non-compliance of HIPAA carries significant costs for the healthcare organization which are far-reaching and beyond just penalties and fines administered by the OCR.
In the aftermath of a data breach, a forensics team needs to investigate the circumstances of the breach and the magnitude of affected data. This investigation is both expensive and time-consuming. In fact, the larger the organization and the breach, the longer and more expensive the investigation becomes.
- Remedial measures
After the initial assessment, the healthcare provider will have to set up remedial measures to safeguard and prevent similar breaches in the future. This involves implementing new safeguards, modifying policies, and even training employees.
Any breach involving more than 500 patient records requires immediate notification to affected individuals, federal regulators, and the media. This expense often contributes a major share of the non-compliance expenses. For example, Anthem, a health insurance company that agreed to pay $16 million to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, reportedly accrued expenses of $40 million in notifying affected patients, via first class mail, of record theft.
- Regulatory fines
The financial repercussions of a breach can be staggering! The minimum penalty for non-compliance of HIPAA regulations is $25,000 for the least severe category and up to $1.5 million per violation for the most severe category.
- Disruption in business
It’s not just the legal aspect that should concern you. The significant amount of manpower, time, effort, and money used to address a data breach can severely disrupt your business operations.
- Brand reputation
Beyond the obvious financial ramifications, additional fines, and penalties, an organization also loses its reputation. With the increasing number of patients researching doctors and hospitals online before choosing a provider, commitment to patient care and transparency can help build trust and credibility with customers.
- Class action lawsuits
It is common for a HIPAA violation caused by a large scale data breach to result in subsequent civil suits and attorney general suits. According to reports, the asking price in healthcare data breach lawsuits is approximately $1,000 per compromised victim.
WORK WITH A TRUSTED MEDICAL BILLING PARTNER
The results of non-compliance or a serious data breach can be catastrophic! The best way to guarantee HIPAA compliance is to be proactive about data security and choose a trusted and vetted HIPAA compliant company that works with you to ensure your technology meets regulatory guidelines.
Analytix is HIPAA compliant and, for optimal security, ensures that technology, processes, and people are integrated and interdependent in medical billing services. Through our careful measures ranging from biometric access and proximity card system, 24X7 security and monitoring, USB and mobile device prohibitions, up-to-date virus and malware protection, Analytix assures data security and reliability.