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10 Reasons to Care about HIPAA

10 Reasons to Care about the HIPAA Privacy Rule banner image

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules require covered entities and their business associates to take certain steps to protect individuals’ health information. If patient information falls into the wrong hands, there can be negative consequences for the patient and for the dental practice.

Here is a list of top ten reasons why you should care about HIPAA:

  1. You take pride in your work, and you care about the well-being of your patients. You care about their health, their comfort, and their privacy.
  2. If a staff member violates HIPAA, the dental practice is required by law to impose an appropriate disciplinary sanction, up to and including termination.
  3. If a dental office violates HIPAA, the government can impose financial penalties in the thousands and even millions of dollars, as well as burdensome corrective action plans.
  4. If there’s a data breach involving patient information, the dental practice may be required to notify affected individuals, the government, and in some cases the news media. This can hurt the reputation of the dental practice, and your own. Patients could leave the practice, and new patients might go elsewhere.
  5. Data breaches take time away from patient care. They are time consuming, stressful, and expensive.
  6. Patients might file lawsuits if their data is compromised. A big data breach can result in class-action litigation. The patient might not win, but litigation is expensive, intrusive, time-consuming and stressful. And who wants a doctor-patient relationship to turn into a plaintiff-defendant relationship? Not you.
  7. Very sensitive health information can be in patients’ dental records. The patient deserves privacy and respect, and may suffer if the wrong person gets this info, or if it goes public.
  8. Disclosure of sensitive financial information can also be used to harm patients. An identity thief can use information like credit card numbers and Social Security numbers to steal from patients.
  9. Health plan information can be stolen, too. An identity thief can steal a patient’s health plan info and use it to get treatment. If this happens, the thief’s health info can end up in the patient’s record and cause serious medical complications! Imagine if your medical records had the wrong blood type, or didn’t include medicine you’re allergic to, because an identity thief used your health plan info to get treatment.
  10. It can be a crime to violate HIPAA. Imagine if a celebrity was a patient – could you just take a peek at their dental record, out of curiosity? That might be a crime, even if the info you see is publicly known. Penalties can include fines and even prison sentences. And if patient info is used for harm or commercial gain, the fines and prison terms go up.

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Disclaimer: These materials are intended to provide helpful information to dentists and dental team members. They are in no way a substitute for actual professional advice based upon your unique facts and circumstances. This content is not intended or offered, nor should it be taken, as legal or other professional advice. You should always consult with your own professional advisors (e.g. attorney, accountant, insurance carrier). To the extent ADA has included links to any third party web site(s), ADA intends no endorsement of their content and implies no affiliation with the organizations that provide their content. Further, ADA makes no representations or warranties about the information provided on those sites.

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