HIPAA is a term that's used quite often in the health-care industry, but not everybody realizes exactly what it is or why it is such a necessary and important factor for any medical facility. The following is a brief overview of what exactly HIPAA is and why it should matter to you and your doctors and administrators.

All about HIPAA: What You Need to Know as a Medical Facility

What Is HIPAA?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Congress passed this legislation in 1996, and it largely has to do with measures and protocols to protect private and sensitive patient information. This can include general information, such as name, date of birth, and social security number, but it also entails medically related information, such as any conditions you have, treatments you've undergone, and so on.

The law and various regulations dictate many facets of privacy in the medical arena, and mandatory HIPAA compliance is a large piece of that.

What's HIPAA's Connection to OSHA?

OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and this agency dictates many laws and regulations that relate to overall safety and health within the workplace. OSHA mandates that certain trainings are conducted by those in the medical industry, and HIPAA falls under that umbrella.

Anybody in your facility who will be in contact with protected health information (PHI) will need to undergo this OSHA training.

Document Destruction: How to Avoid HIPAA Violations

Every medical facility needs to be cognizant of HIPAA OSHA rules and follow them carefully. One essential way to stay on top of this is through proper document shredding protocol. Every piece of paper that has any patient information on it—even if that's just a name or other seemingly benign identifier—needs to be kept under lock and key and then properly shredded and destroyed.

While document destruction used to be utilized most extensively in the health-care industry, the relatively low document shredding cost has made it a popular choice for other arenas too. More and more businesses are realizing how important it is to protect employees' and customers' confidential information, so shredding is becoming a mainstream practice.

An average size doctors' office will typically produce enough documents to require shredding about once a week. This, of course, varies drastically with your patient base, but be aware this practice is probably something you should be doing quite frequently.

Why Does a HIPAA Violation Matter?

First and most important, HIPAA is in place in order to protect the privacy of your patients and ensure their total safety. If their PHI was stolen or revealed due to your negligence, you have compromised the integrity of your facility and the safety of one of your patients.

Additionally, you are looking at potential financial ramifications.

  • Patients will be less likely to trust you and your ability to keep their information safe, meaning your patient numbers could go down.
  • If you underwent an OSHA audit and were found to be noncompliant, you could be subject to any number of OSHA fines.
  • The patient whose information was compromised could take legal action against your facility.

What Resources Do You Have at Your Disposal?

As a medical facility, you are required to ensure your employees go through their proper HIPAA training. Some OSHA trainings are required yearly. Others only need to be updated periodically. Because there are numerous required trainings and each of those trainings has slightly different requirements, it can quickly become confusing and complicated to manage.

If you're feeling overwhelmed or want to make absolutely sure you're on top of these OSHA requirements, you can always seek out the help of medical waste management companies. They have the sources to support your facility in your efforts toward OSHA compliance, and if you work with a reputable organization, they will have knowledgeable employees who can advise you regarding OSHA rules and what you must do to follow.

If you run a medical facility and feel out of your depth when it comes to OSHA laws, make sure to reach out to a company that can provide this OSHA compliance training as well as the knowledge base you need to understand what's required of you. For such information, please feel free to contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services, a Atlanta waste management company.