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Editorial: 5 Reasons Why HIPAA Training is Important

HIPAA training is important beyond “ticking the box” of HIPAA compliance. In this article, we explain how a fully trained and compliant workforce can deliver multiple benefits for organizations subject to HIPAA and provide 5 reasons why HIPAA training is important.

HIPAA training is a requirement of the Privacy and Security Rules. According to the Privacy Rule, Covered Entities must train workforce members on the HIPAA-related policies and procedures relevant to their roles; while, according to the Security Rule, both Covered Entities and Business Associates must implement a security awareness and training program for all members of the workforce – even those with no access to ePHI.

#1. Reduce the Risk of HIPAA Violations

HIPAA training should be more than a box-checking exercise for compliance. The purpose of training workforces on HIPAA-related policies and security awareness is so they can perform their roles compliantly and avoid making mistakes that could result in a privacy violation. One of the most important reasons for training is to ensure the privacy of protected health information and prevent HIPAA violations.

#2. Demonstrate a Good Faith Effort

Sometimes, despite an organization´s best efforts, employees may violate the HIPAA Rules. All violations must be reported to the HHS´ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and OCR may choose to investigate. If an investigation is initiated, a HIPAA-regulated entity will need to demonstrate its good faith effort to achieve HIPAA compliance. Providing evidence that training has been provided to the workforce will demonstrate that this was an isolated incident, which could result in the avoidance of sanctions and penalties.

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#3. Provide an Efficient Workplace Structure

With effective HIPAA training, members of the workforce not only know what they have to do to be HIPAA compliant but also why they need to act in a specific way with respect to protected health information. This provides an efficient workplace structure in which time-wasting due to a lack of knowledge is minimized. Effectively, the cost of HIPAA training pays for itself in increased productivity, which – in a healthcare setting – can have benefits for patient care, Medicare star ratings, and profitability.

#4. Stronger Defense Against Cyberattacks

HIPAA training is important because all members of the workforce need to understand how to be HIPAA compliant. Security awareness training is important as employees are trained on security best practices to prevent the exposure of protected health information and to make it harder for malicious actors to gain access to patient data. The security awareness training requirements of HIPAA help to improve an organization’s security posture and prevent data breaches.

#5. Encourage Openness by Patients

Research suggests that when patients trust their healthcare providers to keep their personal information private and confidential, they tend to be more open about their symptoms and voice health concerns with their healthcare providers. More openness by patients helps healthcare providers make more accurate diagnoses and better-informed treatment decisions – which can improve patient outcomes. One of the best ways of ensuring patient privacy is HIPAA compliance, and ensuring regular training is provided to the workforce.

Conclusion: HIPAA Training is Important Beyond Ticking the Box

OCR maintains a “breach portal” which is a publicly available record of all data breaches of 500 or more records, all of which are investigated by OCR. The archive contains cases that have been closed, including resolutions with a financial penalty, corrective action plan, or technical assistance. Almost one-third of the resolved cases have included a requirement for the Covered Entity or Business Associate to provide more training or increase the frequency of existing security awareness training.

This shows that many organizations are not taking the importance of HIPAA and security awareness training seriously enough. While the provision of HIPAA and security awareness training doesn´t guarantee violations will not occur, being able to demonstrate an effective training program will lessen the sanctions imposed by OCR. In some cases, this can significantly reduce the indirect costs associated with revising policies and procedures, providing training on the revisions, and the business disruption this will cause.

In addition, HIPAA training can help with the creation of an efficient workplace structure, build stronger defenses against cyberattacks, and encourage openness by patients that results in better patient outcomes. Covered Entities and Business Associates that are unsure about any potential gaps in their training programs should seek professional compliance advice.

Steve Alder, Editor-in-Chief, HIPAA Journal

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.