Patients trust healthcare providers with their most sensitive information. As a healthcare provider, protecting that information is your legal responsibility.
The purpose of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is threefold. It protects patients, keeps information flowing, and maintains trust in the healthcare system. You can use technology to follow HIPAA regulations, but software can’t prevent every HIPAA compliance issue. Healthcare organizations need to train their staff.
HIPAA legislation is complex, so choosing the right training program can prove difficult. You could buy books or hire consultants. You could also access online training from government, academic, and professional sources. What’s the right option for your organization?
In this post, we’ll look at some free options from the web, including documents, videos, courses, and certificates. We’ll focus on free resources because they’re easily accessible and can help your team gain the knowledge they need to protect patient privacy.
HIPAA compliance combines training with technology
Paying attention to HIPAA training is vital for any healthcare business. Minor slipups on HIPAA regulations have major costs. Fines and lawsuits can add up to millions of dollars.
These penalties often start with a simple mistake. It could involve leaving printouts in plain sight, dialing the wrong number, or sending test results to the wrong address. How do you prevent such scenarios from happening?
Part of the solution is secure technology. For example, encrypting emails is one way to prevent a privacy breach.
Another part of the solution is creating written policies. For example, you should have a document that outlines who can access certain information and the correct process for doing so.
However, your efforts to enforce HIPAA could all be for nothing if just one staff member isn’t adequately trained. Training helps team members who handle protected health information (PHI) avoid costly mistakes. The HIPAA rules are firm on this point, but they’re also flexible and scalable.
HIPAA regulations require organizations to be proactive
A wide range of organizations and individuals must comply with HIPAA rules. This means that there’s no single standardized training program that applies to all organizations.
However, one guiding principle appears throughout the regulations: You’ll be judged on whether you made a good faith effort. Your efforts could occur before, during, or after security and privacy breaches. How can you take the necessary steps to protect your patients and your organization?
HIPAA protects both you and the patient
One protection provided by HIPAA is the business associate agreement (BAA). This legal contract stipulates how a business associate will adhere to HIPAA when handling PHI. The BAA provides the partner organization legal recourse if the other entity violates HIPAA laws. It protects both the organizations involved and their patients.
Another way organizations can exercise due diligence is by implementing the right training programs. While HIPAA-compliant software is a great start, an untrained employee can cause just as much damage as unsecured software. For example, a HIPAA breach can take the form of medical personnel discussing patient information in a public area.
Because free HIPAA-training resources are accessible and cover a wide range of situations, they’re a great way to prepare your team. These resources can improve staff compliance while saving you time, stress, and money.
Q&A: Finding the best free HIPAA-training resources
Due to the many resources available, you should come up with a list of criteria and questions before you start your search for free training.
- Have other healthcare brands adopted the training? Adoption by other reputable healthcare brands will reinforce the legitimacy of free resources.
- Do you need a BAA? A BAA is a standard HIPAA requirement. If you’ll be handling PHI during the training, it’s essential that you have this agreement in place.
- How well does the training integrate with your current workflow? The cost to adapt a program to your needs may outweigh the cost of purchasing a tailored version.
- Cost. Some programs may offer a free version for individuals or small practices and paid versions for larger organizations. Look for the best value.
- Does the training cover your sector of the healthcare industry? Some courses are customized for certain professions. If your sector has unique security challenges, it’s best to find training that covers those needs.
- Does completion of the training come with professional credits? Some free and paid training options offer continuing education credits upon completion. If any of your medical professionals need education credits, look for a program with this feature.
Based on our research, the best free HIPAA-training resources are available from a variety of public and private sources.
- The Medicare Learning Network, part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, offers a HIPAA fact sheet. This quick reference guide is useful for those who are short on time.
- The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing HIPAA and gives practical suggestions for staying compliant. OCR offers a training module for healthcare providers on patients’ right of access under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The slides and tests provide an in-depth review of HIPAA. Health professionals get education credits upon completion. To get updates on HIPAA rules, you can sign up for the OCR Privacy & Security mailing list.
- HealthIT.gov’s Guide to Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information provides a summary of what HIPAA requires. The page contains links to risk assessment tools, security training games, and other aids.
- State Attorneys General training materials provide a comprehensive overview of HIPAA compliance. You can also download a file that contains the training modules for the entire course.
Private companies and third parties also offer free training. As compliance-as-a-service providers, these companies offer less formal, more approachable guides and videos.
Such providers include the following:
- Compliancy Group provides training on HIPAA basics, creating policies and procedures, and compliance on social media. They also have tips on integrating the lessons into your workplace.
- ProHIPAA provides videos and tests, with test results available behind a paywall. They also provide a certificate of completion after finishing the course.
- HIPAA Secure Now has a similar offering to ProHIPAA with interactive online training. They give special attention to identifying phishing and ransomware scams and come with a 14-day free trial.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. You may find other appropriate training by including your sector or industry in your internet searches.
HIPAA compliance can be easy with free tools
Managing compliance, security, and risk involves many parts of a healthcare service. This includes training staff. Training eliminates blind spots in your security, helps you keep patient trust, and saves you money.
Take advantage of free, online resources and improve your HIPAA training program. We hope this post helps you on your journey to create a comprehensive training program for your organization.