You just finished with your patient and are back at the nurse’s station. You are chatting to a coworker about the unique symptoms your patient has. You’re animated as the two of you chat about the possibilities of what it could be. Plus, you’re essentially testing each other’s working knowledge of medicine. It doesn’t even cross your mind that maybe someone is overhearing this conversation who shouldn’t. This simple and all too common conversation is actually a violation of HIPAA guidelines for nurses – if someone hears you. So, let’s have some real talk about HIPAA guidelines for nurses who travel.
HIPAA Guidelines for Nurses | Real Talk
The casual mishap described above is exactly why many nurses are desensitized to the idea of protecting a patient’s privacy. Although the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, has existed since the ‘90s, following this simple concept is in reality much harder than it seems. It is easy to slip up. For instance, it is especially easy when you often need to discuss patients with all members of a care team.
HIPAA Guidelines for Nurses: How to Avoid Violations
With that said, here are five ways to avoid a HIPAA violation.
- Know exactly what info you’re protecting
First, it’s good to know exactly what information about the patient that you’re protecting. For example, here’s a simple list of things that HIPAA protects:
- Demographic information
- Health conditions (of course). This includes diagnoses and test results
- Clinical data like their lab results or even what medication they are taking
- Billing and payment details
- Pictures – duh!
- Talk quietly
Secondly, in a situation like I mentioned in the beginning… talk quietly. It is ok to discuss patient care with other members of the team. However, it is very important that no one overhears you doing so.
- Protect paper
Third – protect paper records. Some places where you go on assignment, things won’t necessarily be digital. Keep in mind that you don’t want to leave confidential information laying on the counter. Even worse, you can’t have it accidentally blowing across the room. Put paper records in a safe space and lock and protect the documents.
- Don’t forget about data
Keep in mind that just because information is stored on the computer, that doesn’t automatically make it safe. There is high risk for someone to hack into electronic medical records. This isn’t really a concern of yours as a nurse. Your facility should have proper safeguards in place. However, keep in mind that if you notice anything suspicious on your software, to report it.
- Report suspicious activity
And that brings us to our fifth and final way to avoid HIPAA violations in healthcare. If you notice anything suspicious, report it. This can be anything from a coworker handling a situation to the way your facility is managed to computer issues. Everyone should pay attention to HIPAA in order to stay compliant and truly protect patient privacy.
What Happens When You Violate HIPAA?
So, what happens when you violate HIPAA? Well, if a patient feels like their information was leaked or shared, they can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Anyone can be punished for violating HIPAA, from an entire organization down to individual nurses. If you are found guilty, you could be fined up to $250,000 or even sent to prison. This all depends on the extremity of the case. Clearly the federal government takes patient privacy very seriously. This is why it’s extremely important to abide by HIPAA.
Where Do You Find the Most Up-to-Date HIPAA Info?
To stay up to date on HIPAA, it’s a good idea to check the official government website. There’s an entire section dedicated to HIPAA for professionals.This section will help you follow the guidelines accurately.
Do you have additional questions or thoughts about HIPAA guidelines for nurses? Feel free to chat with us in the comment section!