Dental practices: Ensuring HIPAA compliance in 2022

Dental practices: Ensuring HIPAA compliance in 2022

Hackers often target small- to medium-sized dental practices like yours to steal data and sell it on the dark web. Therefore, it’s important that you remain vigilant against any vulnerabilities that your practice may have so that you can ensure HIPAA compliance for your dental office.

In this regard, HIPAA compliance is considered to be the least that dental offices should have in place since government-mandated cybersecurity protocols lag behind the latest IT developments. After all, abiding by HIPAA regulations for dental offices is mandatory if you want to avoid potential fines and liability issues. It also helps dental practices keep sensitive patient information safe from unauthorized parties while also making such information readily available to patients and the dental professionals who treat them.

HIPAA compliance helps dental practices keep sensitive patient information safe from unauthorized parties.

How can you ensure HIPAA compliance for dental offices?

To help your dental practice comply with HIPAA regulations for dental offices, we’ve compiled a to-do list for you:

Implement access controls on electronic protected health information (ePHI)

A medical record can sell for $1–$1,000 on the black market depending on how much personally identifiable information (PII) it contains. The more PII a record has, the more useful it is for committing identity fraud.

One way to prevent dental records and other ePHI from being stolen is to limit who has access to them. Specifically, you must:

  • Assign access privileges to dental staff, IT personnel, and third-party service providers based on their roles and responsibilities.
  • Keep a record of privileges granted so that HIPAA compliance audits can produce accurate security risk profiles or find where data breaches originate during postmortem investigations.

Keep dental digital images on site

HIPAA rules require healthcare providers to retain copies of medical images on site for ease of retrievability in case such images become critical for medical emergencies. Dental practices in particular store mostly X-rays, along with some digital dental impressions of teeth and gums.

You must keep copies of these dental digital images on an on-site server or other storage device — and you must keep these copies safe and secure. To do this, encrypt and back up your medical images in accordance with HIPAA protocols, or have a records management service provider do it for you.

Use breach detection methods and tools

Improve your dental practice’s cybersecurity by performing regular vulnerability scans, implementing security event monitoring, and utilizing endpoint management software.

Train dental staff in best practices for HIPAA compliance

Have an accredited cybersecurity training vendor educate your staff on HIPAA compliance and cybersecurity habits. Involve your third-party partners as well so you can prevent them from turning into security vulnerabilities. At Healthy IT, we can assist you with these best practices.

What are the consequences of HIPAA noncompliance?

HIPAA aims to protect people when they are most vulnerable — i.e., when they are receiving medical attention. Thus, the law is given teeth in the form of financial and jail term penalties. Financial penalties can range from $100 per minor violation to $50,000 per violation constituting willful neglect of HIPAA rules. Depending on the severity of noncompliance, a dental practice could incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties.

Dental professionals who knowingly obtain or use ePHI in ways that are not allowed under HIPAA may be found criminally liable under HIPAA’s criminal enforcement provisions. To illustrate, a dentist who obtains ePHI to sell on the dark web can be jailed for up to 10 years.

Your dental practice can also suffer reputational damage. You may end up losing patients and find it difficult to get new ones.

To avoid such catastrophic outcomes, always comply with HIPAA. However, HIPAA rules are amended as the cybersecurity landscape changes, making compliance challenging. This is why you should partner with a top-notch IT services provider like Healthy IT. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can upgrade the cyber defenses of your dental practice and help you become HIPAA-compliant in the process.