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The Most Common HIPAA Violations and How You Can Prevent Them

Compliance with HIPAA laws is not optional. Read up on these common HIPAA violations to keep your business in compliance!


HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It protects the privacy of all individuals seeking medical care for both behavioral and physical ailments.

While every doctor's office has to comply with HIPAA laws, there are a few common HIPAA violations that occur. This is due to our over-reliance on technology, which can create possible issues.

In this article, we'll go over some of the most common issues you might face as a healthcare provider. We'll show you how to ensure your office is HIPAA compliant.

Employee Gossiping

Although workplace chatter often seems harmless, in this case, it isn't. Not only is it harmful, but it could land your organization in some serious hot water.

HIPAA violations are serious. Employees must not gossip or discuss their patients. Unfortunately, it is human nature to do so, so many people will find themselves engaging in it every once in a while.

Train your employees to understand that this is a HIPAA violation. Make it clear that serious consequences can and will occur for speaking about a patient's medical condition in an unapproved way.

Doctors and other care providers have to liaise with one another to ensure that patients in question receive the best care possible. That doesn't include employee gossip.

One of the Most Common HIPAA Violations: Carelessness

Sometimes your employees may overwork themselves or not get enough sleep. This is common in doctor's offices and in other healthcare provider offices.

Other times, there is human error when employees are not paying attention to their job.

Either way, this can result in handing a patient the wrong chart, prescription or information about their condition. Not only is this embarrassing for the patient who had their personal information handed out, but it is also a HIPAA violation.

Therefore, your employees should be aware of what they are handing to whom.


Theft is another way that breaches of data occur. This can be a combination of employee carelessness or acts of theft.

For example, if your hospital leaves 12 patient files in a staff member's car and the car gets stolen, this is a breach of HIPAA.

This issue can also occur when people steal electronic devices and other items that have sensitive information stored on them.

In some cases, theft can occur from the doctor's office. This is the case if a patient decides to steal from the hospital itself, presumably to use the piece of technology on their own. This has become more common as practices use tablets and computers as part of integrated care.

Although the person stealing the item didn't intend to also steal the data with it, if it is on the device, then it is also a HIPAA violation.


Unfortunately, hacking does occur, and hospitals are big targets.

If you'll recall, North Korea hacked the United Kingdom's National Health Service (or NHS) in the WannaCry cyber attack in 2017.

This attack was devastating for the NHS, who were unable to access patient records until they rectified the situation. If this had occurred in the United States, it would also represent a major HIPAA violation. This is because the hacker would then have information and able to access patient files.

Many of these hacks that occur are not meant to get patient data. Instead, hackers often do so to threaten a governmental organization or to demand money.

The WannaCry cyber attack used ransomware. With ransomware, the entire infrastructure locked until someone paid an exorbitant fee to the hackers.

While the NHS cyber attack was on a large scale, hackers may place ransomware in any computer. This means that you should employ a strong IT team or hire someone to tighten up your security.

It would be devastating to receive not only a breach of your patients' privacy but also a HIPAA violation in the process.

Some believe that the NHS could have even avoided the WannaCry cyberattack with some minor adjustments to their IT work.

Data Isn't Encrypted

If you haven't encrypted the data on your devices, this can also lead to information breaches.

In reality, the only people should have access to patient information are those who are treating the patient. Otherwise, the information should only be available on a need-to-know basis.

As such, you need to encrypt your data with strong passwords to ensure that no one can get into the computer system.

If you leave data on devices unencrypted, you run the risk of someone opening data they shouldn't see unintentionally.

Again, this type of violation is avoidable more often than not. With a little bit of help from a solid IT department, you can ensure the security of all your files.

Preventing HIPAA Violations

This list of common HIPAA violations is not exhaustive. There are many ways that you can violate HIPAA unintentionally. Unfortunately for you, this can mean facing a pretty hefty fine that you can't get out of. This could even spell disaster for your doctor's office, especially if you're a small operation.

To avoid data breaches and other similar problems, it is a great idea to hire an IT specialist to come in and assess your technology. They can help you identify your weak spots and decide where you might be vulnerable. They'll then take actionable steps to protect your clients' information and your business.

Contact us today to decipher where your next data breach could occur and let us help you prevent it.

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