Weber & Nelson Law Office, PLLC
Minnesota Health Law Attorneys

3 ways medical practice owners can avoid privacy violations

As a healthcare practice owner, you are aware that patient information is protected by law. However, privacy violations can be easy to make. A simple mistake could cost your employees their license and hurt the reputation of your practice.

Whether you are opening a new private practice or you own an established treatment center, you can review a few methods to protect your patients’ rights. Good business strategy can help you avoid stressful lawsuits and expensive settlements.

#1: Keep social media and work separate

When you or your employees get to know patients on a personal level, you might want to treat them like a friend in terms of social media. While online, it’s easy to forget that patients are different from other people you know, yet photos and public conversations can circulate rapidly. In fact, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing created a video to address this growing issue.

Perhaps you may decide that employees can only use social media and cell phones in a break room. Another preventative measure is to hold training sessions that cover situations in which an employee might accidentally break the law with social media, such as discussing a particularly poignant condition.

#2: Store patient data securely

As a rule of thumb, healthcare providers should not keep patient information on a personal device, temporarily or otherwise. Employee computers may not be secure and can easily fall into the wrong hands, risking potentially thousands of patients’ privacy rights. Because this data is valuable, leaks and hacking are common.

You may instead set up one central server to which your employees can connect to access health records. The network should be well-protected with encryption and firewalls. Beware, though, that security software advertisements may claim that they are HIPAA compliant, but you can’t expect the system to protect against all privacy violations on its own.

#3: Dedicate funding to privacy protection

A good security system can’t guard your data if it’s out of date. Digital security is not a “one and done” deal because threats constantly evolve and become more complex. Updates and upgrades are necessary to deter data thieves. Because the technical aspect of your company may fall to the wayside on a day-to-day basis, you may wish to employ IT professionals who can understand security protocol.