Anyone who’s worked in the dental or medical industry knows the importance of protecting private patient information. After all, the heart of a dental practice is patient care. But with the seemingly endless regulations that can be vague, confusing or a combination of the two, knowing the best way to keep your practice compliant (and avoid costly penalties and damage to your reputation) is never easy.
That’s where having a well thought out and accepted strategy for achieving compliance comes in. And while no two dental offices are alike, they all can benefit from implementing these three smart HIPAA compliance practices.
- Assign a Point Person to Stay Up to Date with All Things HIPAA
While there are certain requirements for every dental professional to maintain HIPAA compliance, it’s smart to have one designated person to stay up to date on the latest in compliance and inform the team as necessary. This ensures that understanding compliance doesn’t become one of those office tasks that’s always pushed aside for other, more urgent duties until it’s too late and a mistake is made. Just a couple hours a week set aside for HIPAA courses, reading dental industry publications, and familiarizing your practice with resources like this ADA HIPAA resource center will go a long way in ensuring you’re in line with regulations.
- Make Compliance Part of Your Practice Routine
Once you have a thorough understanding of the regulations that pertain to your practice, you should examine your current day to day activities to see if there are any causes for concern. Do team members have a habit of discussing patients between appointments? Or has it been a while since you’ve updated the security measures on your practice computer? If so, you’ll want to address these issues and make a plan for how you’ll do things moving forward to ensure you meet regulatory requirements. Once you have new plans drawn up write them down (or type them up) and distribute them to everyone in the office to follow. This way everyone will be on the same page, which minimizes the chance of a breach in compliance.
- Don’t Underestimate the Benefit of Third Party Solution
At the end of the day you’re a dental practice whose main priority is taking good care of your patients’ oral health. If you feel you could use additional resources to maintain compliance, finding a third party to assist your practice could be a worthy investment. Third party solutions like a compliance expert can provide the expertise your practice needs to create smart and efficient office protocols for maintaining compliance with a lot less leg work on your part. This maximizes the time you are able to spend with patients. However, it’s not an investment to make lightly. According to a 2017 survey, 56% of respondents experienced a data breach by a third party (Ponemun, 2017). This means you need to be thorough while vetting your options. Read reviews and talk with other dental professionals to help you make the right—and safe—choice for your practice.
How has your practice handled compliance in the past? Are you already utilizing the three smart compliance practices we detailed above? If not there’s no time like the present to step back and review what’s working and what isn’t in terms of HIPAA compliance. It not only benefits your patients by ensuring they feel safe and secure coming to you for care, but also protects your practice from potential headaches caused from unintentional HIPAA violations.