How Home Health Agency Software Can Keep You HIPAA Compliant

Asha Neil

Written on 21 November, 2022
Home health agencies must comply with the strict regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Even a minor infraction can have serious consequences.

Care workers may not even realize that they've breached HIPAA rules when sharing patients’ protected health information. Fortunately, home health agency software can help you and your team follow HIPAA guidelines and protect patient privacy.

Keep reading as we break down everything you need to know about HIPAA compliance, including common HIPAA violations and how to avoid them.

What Are Your Home Health Agency HIPAA Compliance Requirements?

As a health care provider, you need to ensure that protected health information is kept private and secure. The HIPAA Privacy Rule outlines patients' rights to privacy in terms of their medical records and identifiable medical information. The HIPAA Security Rule regulates how electronic protected health information should be stored. It reflects concerns over the security of modern information technology.

Common HIPAA Violations in Home Healthcare

Most common HIPAA violations are the results of human error or poor technology-related decisions. Unfortunately, while unintentional, these regulatory issues can have a severe impact.

Violations to watch out for include:

  • Improperly disclosing private health information. This often happens through discussing patient information in public or with someone to whom the patient hasn't consented to give access to those particular details.

  • Insecure, unencrypted storage of electronic protected health information. Encryption is essential for the storage and sharing of protected health information.

  • Poor password health. Common issues include weak passwords, writing passwords down in visible locations, and insecure password manager apps.

  • Using insecure personal mobile devices to access protected health information. If your home care agency staff view protected health information via their personal devices, it's essential that it's through a secure app.

  • Not adequately protecting mobile devices from theft or loss. This includes accessing patient information via a device that family members have access to.

  • Releasing patient records to someone without permission. Either the recipient doesn't have appropriate permission or the wrong patient's records are shared.

  • Illegally accessing a patient's private health information. Whether intentional or not, a worker accesses patient records that they don't have the right to view.

What Are the Ramifications of HIPAA Violations?

Failure to maintain HIPAA compliance can be costly, even if the patient information privacy breaches were accidental.

Civil HIPAA compliance issues are investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, either in response to complaints or through regular HIPAA audits.

Fines for unknowing HIPAA violations range from $100 to $50,000 per breach. Willful violations are fined at a rate of $50,000 each with an annual maximum of $1.5 million.

Criminal HIPAA compliance breaches, meanwhile, are investigated by the Department of Justice. They carry even bigger fines, along with prison sentences of up to 10 years.

How Software Can Keep Home Health Agencies HIPAA Compliant

Home health software can lead to better patient outcomes and greater operational efficiency. However, those aren't the only benefits. Software developed with US-based health care providers in mind will also help you meet the unique challenges of the HIPAA regulations and avoid potential fines.

Encrypted Storage of Protected Health Information

Encryption means that nobody can gain unauthorized access to confidential files, not even staff at the technology firms responsible for their storage. Home health software will ensure that your care documentation, from care plans to visit notes, is fully encrypted.

Secure Password-Controlled Access

Home health software will include password protection so that staff members can securely access patient details via their personal mobile devices. You will also be able to set varying levels of access to protected health information for different logins.

In-Platform Sharing of Patient Health Information

Many HIPAA violations happen when information is being shared. By keeping all protected health information on one platform, you can avoid these situations. Your employees won't ever need to discuss patients via email or other insecure channels.

There will also be much less risk of an employee accidentally sharing the wrong person's protected health information. You can automate the sharing of required documents for an employee's shift, which in turn will help prevent mistakes. And even if the wrong file were to be shared, password protection means that the recipient wouldn't be able to access it.

If your home health agency software comes with companion apps for friends and family members, you can also automate the sharing of patient health information with clients' loved ones in a secure and encrypted manner.

Cloud Storage

By selecting home health agency software with cloud storage, you can prevent staff from downloading patient files. This means it's impossible to send confidential documents via email, insecure messaging apps, and other inappropriate channels.

Plus, even if an employee's device is lost, stolen, or shared with someone else, cloud storage means you won't have to worry about documents being opened from the downloads folder. Only people with the right password will be able to access the cloud storage system, and you can change users' passwords remotely.

Home Health Agency Software That Will Help You Maintain Compliance

Home health agency software will help you protect patient health information and achieve HIPAA compliance, while also supporting you in the day-to-day running of your agency. You can rest assured that your confidential files will be securely stored and legally accessed.

ShiftCare's home care software is designed around the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It offers securely encrypted cloud storage, password-controlled access to client documentation, and an all-in-one platform that will ensure patient information never needs to be sent via insecure channels.

Plus, it comes with a host of workforce and client management features, from automated rostering to accounting integration and companion apps for family and friends.

To discover how ShiftCare can help you ensure compliance, try it for free.

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