HIPAA Audits: Why Dental Organizations Shouldn’t Ignore the Audits

By Dr. Danika Brinda, CEO, Planet HIPAA

2016 is going to be a monumental year for HIPAA compliance. The Phase 2 HIPAA audits will be starting, and increased HIPAA enforcement is a guarantee. So far in 2016, we have seen multiple fines and HIPAA compliance enforcement that are setting the stage for the remainder of 2016. For many years, HIPAA compliance has been pushed off and ignored; however, if the first 2 months of 2016 is telling the story, now is the time to ensure your dental practice has established proper policies, procedures and practices for HIPAA compliance. Don’t get tangled up in a HIPAA audit with no confidence in your dental practice’s compliance with HIPAA!

It is easy to think that your practice is too small to get selected for a HIPAA audit or that audits will focus on large, integrated health care systems. However, looking at the findings from the pilot audits indicate that dental practices are just as desirable for a HIPAA audit as any other type of organization.

Some key findings from the HIPAA Pilot Audits are:

  • Smaller organizations tended to struggle with HIPAA compliance more than larger organizations.
  • The most common finding was that the entity was “unaware of the requirement.”
  • Of the total health care providers audited, NONE of them were 100 percent HIPAA compliant.
  • Incomplete implementation of the regulations was cited as a top finding from the audits.

We are at a stage with HIPAA compliance that the “I didn’t know” or “I was unaware” is no longer going to be an acceptable reason for non-compliance. In the past year, numerous data breaches were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services. In some of the dental data breaches reported, more than 500 individuals were impacted!

  • 2,000 individuals impacted when an unencrypted portable device was stolen from a dental provider.
  • 3,200 individuals impacted after an unencrypted server was stolen during a burglary of a dental office.
  • 7,400 individuals impacted when dental records at an off-site storage were released by the storage company to unauthorized individuals.

With proper oversight of HIPAA and appropriate physical, technical and administrative safeguards, these data breaches could have been avoided.

Another common finding is false security that the vendor of your practice management system or electronic health record has all aspects of HIPAA compliance covered. Even when a third-party solution manages a system, not all aspects of HIPAA compliance are met. Additionally, you may find that some functionality of your systems does not actually meet HIPAA compliance. For example, your systems should be able to automatically log out after a specified time of inactivity. Your vendor may be the group responsible for creating the functionality, but you are responsible for the implementation in your dental organization. If your software system doesn’t have the functionality to automatically log out of the system with inactivity, you may be out of compliance with HIPAA. Don’t assume that compliance is met — verify it!

Don’t wait until a HIPAA audit comes to your dental practice to know that you are out of compliance. Immediate action is needed if you are not confident in your HIPAA compliance. HIPAA takes more than just putting a HIPAA manual on the shelf in your dental practice. Make sure your organization takes the steps NOW and prevents a bad outcome from a HIPAA audit or showing up on the HIPAA Wall of Shame.

 

Dr. Danika Brinda is the CEO of Planet HIPAA and has more than 12 years of experience in health care privacy and security practices. She also is a nationally recognized speaker on a variety of health care privacy and security topics, and specializes in helping dental organizations implement a HIPAA-compliance program.

This article was first published on Planet HIPAA on April 18, 2016.

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