With the vast improvements in technology over the past few decades, cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, making it more and more difficult for healthcare facilities to keep sensitive information private. It’s essential for people working in the healthcare industry to maintain constant communication with patients and other providers. With a secure messaging system, you don’t have to worry about prying eyes looking at critical information.

According to AHA (The American Hospital Association) President and CEO Rick Pollack, “The most wired hospitals are using every available technology option to create more ways to reach their patients in order to provide access to care.They are transforming care delivery, investing in new delivery models in order to improve quality, provide access and control costs.”

HIPAA Messaging Requirements

If you work in a hospital or other healthcare facility, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA was introduced in 1996 as a way to provide data privacy and security to safeguard medical information. As a result, a variety of technology companies have created HIPAA-compliant messaging systems to help secure sensitive patient information.

The Main Advantage Of A Secure Messaging System

There are many advantages to investing in a secure messaging system, like those offered by Inpriva. By utilizing a HIPAA-compliant, messaging platform for your hospital or clinic, you can avoid a slew of problems (like HIPAA fines).

  • Secure Patient Information – The main purpose of HIPAA is to improve the security of sensitive patient information. According to an article from Atlantic.net, seven out of 10 people are more likely to choose a hospital that hasn’t been plagued with security issues.
  • Improved Doctor & Nurse Communication – With a HIPAA-compliant messaging systems, doctors and nurses can communicate in real-time.
  • Less Risk Of Medical Error – Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of a secure messaging system is that it can lead to less risk of medical error. The Joint Commission estimates that 80 percent of medical mishaps occur due to miscommunication, so a secure messaging system can really change the game.
  • Increased Patient Engagement – When patients can communicate with their doctor or physician over a messaging system, it encourages them to take more responsibility for their health.

What Is Considered To Be Protected Patient Information?

HIPAA’s main goal is to protect patient information. This can include:

  • The name of a patient
  • The address of a patient
  • The birth date and Social Security number of a patient
  • A patient’s physical or mental health conditions
  • Any previous care provided to the patient
  • Payment information

Beware Of HIPAA Penalties & Violations

You may be wondering what happens if you violate HIPAA. When a medical provider violates HIPAA, it can be either deliberate or unintentional. A good example of an unintentional violation would be if a nurse disclosed too much personal health information to another person on accident. A deliberate violation could be a doctor unnecessarily delaying notification letters to patients, exceeding a maximum timeframe of 60 days following the breach to send out notifications. More often than not, however, most HIPAA violations are a result of negligence.

Depending on the severity of a HIPAA violation, a medical practice or physician’s punishment can vary. If the HIPAA violations are serious or have been persistent for a long time, financial penalties may be issued.

There are four different categories used for the HIPAA penalty structure. Let’s take a look at them below.

  • Category 1 – This is a HIPAA violation that the covered entity was unaware of and could not have been realistically avoided.
  • Category 2 – This is a violation stating that the covered entity should have been aware of, but could not have avoided, even with a reasonable amount of care.
  • Category 3 – A direct result of “willful neglect” of HIPAA rules. In this case, an attempt will have been made to correct the issue.
  • Category 4 – Another violation of willful neglect, where no attempt was made to fix the issue.

For each category listed above, there is a different HIPAA penalty structure. It will ultimately be up to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to determine the actual penalty. If an organization willfully helps with the investigation, this can also be taken into account as well. Some other factors that may affect a HIPAA penalty include the company’s prior history, the financial condition of a provider, and the level of harm that was caused by the violation.

  • Category 1 – A minimum fine of $100 per violation. This number can reach up to $50,000.
  • Category 2 – A minimum fine of $1,000 per violation. This number can reach up to $50,000.
  • Category 3 – A minimum fine of $10,000 per violation. This number can reach up to $50,000 as well.
  • Category 4- A minimum fee of $50,00 per violation.

Criminal Penalties For HIPAA Violations

This may come as a surprise, but there are also criminal penalties for those that violate HIPAA regulations. Criminal charges can be filed against the individual(s) that are responsible for a breach in personal health information. HIPAA divides these violations into three separate tiers, and there are a variety of factors that can affect the penalty being issued.

  • Tier 1 – This violation can result in up to one year of jail time if the person in question had no knowledge of the HIPAA violation.
  • Tier 2 – When someone obtains personal health information under false pretenses, they can land up to five years in jail.
  • Tier 3 – If a person obtains PHI for personal gain or with some kind of malicious intent, they may be subject to up to 10 years in jail.

Inpriva: hDirectMail Plans For Healthcare Messaging

Inpriva is proud to offer HIPAA-compliant messaging plans for healthcare providers throughout the nation. Our messaging system was originally created for interoperable, secure messaging for healthcare providers, but we have expanded our reach to support the needs of social services, judicial systems, public health services, and beyond. If you’re interested in learning more about our secure healthcare messaging system, check out our plans and pricing online.