EdApp by SafetyCulture

10 HIPAA breach examples


May 31, 2023



HIPAA breach examples

HIPAA establishes privacy and security standards for protecting patients' medical information. A HIPAA breach occurs when there’s a violation of these standards. In this article, we’ve listed the most common types of HIPAA breaches to help you understand and address them better.

1. Impermissible uses and disclosures of PHI

Using and disclosing protected health information (PHI) without permission is a violation of HIPAA regulations and a serious breach of patient privacy. This HIPAA breach example occurs when healthcare institutions or their associates share or access PHI without proper authorization from the patient or without a valid reason for doing so. Such violations result in financial penalties, loss of reputation, and loss of trust from patients.

hipaa breach - impermissible disclosure of PHI

To prevent impermissible uses and disclosures of PHI, your organization must implement strong policies and procedures for handling it. Regular HIPAA training should also be held to prevent impermissible uses and disclosures of PHI. All staff members who handle PHI should receive this training to make sure that they are aware of their responsibilities.

SC Training (formerly EdApp) is a great platform for letting your staff take their HIPAA training. With SC Training (formerly EdApp), you can easily create effective and engaging microlearning courses to boost their learning and retention of HIPAA regulations. With this learning management system (LMS), you can have interactive multimedia training content to share with your team in minutes.

You don’t even need to have any coding experience for fun bite-sized lessons with gamification elements such as quizzes, achievements, and leaderboards. And if you need some help with setting up the courses, SC Training (formerly EdApp)’s team of expert instructional designers is ready to lend you a hand using the platform’s Course Creation Services.

Create a free (up to 10 users) account with SC Training (formerly EdApp) today to give your team the top-notch HIPAA training they need.

2. Lack of safeguards for PHI

This HIPAA breach example results in the unauthorized access or disclosure of PHI. This occurs when healthcare institutions or their business associates fail to implement appropriate administrative, physical, or technical safeguards to protect PHI. To prevent a lack of safeguards for PHI, your organization should implement a variety of security measures.

hipaa breach - lack of safeguards

Administrative safeguards include policies and procedures for handling PHI, healthcare compliance training, and ongoing risk assessments. Physical safeguards include secure facilities, access controls, and secure storage of PHI. Technical safeguards include encryption, firewalls, and malware protection.

3. Failure to give patients access to their own PHI

Patients have the right to access their PHI under HIPAA, and healthcare organizations are obligated to give this access in a timely manner. Failure to give patients access to their own PHI is another violation of HIPAA regulations that can result in significant consequences. This HIPAA breach example occurs when patients are denied access to their PHI, or if access is unreasonably delayed or restricted.

hipaa breach - failure to give access

To prevent this from happening, your organization should make sure that they have appropriate technology and systems in place to give patients access to their PHI in a secure and timely manner. This includes ensuring that electronic health records (EHRs) are accessible to patients through patient portals and that adequate staff resources are available to respond to patient requests for access to their PHI.

4. Failure to conduct a risk analysis

A risk analysis is an essential part of HIPAA compliance, and it involves identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI. Failure to conduct a risk analysis can result in inadequate security measures being implemented, which can lead to unauthorized access, disclosure, or destruction of PHI.

hipaa breach - failure to conduct risk analysis

So, your organization should establish clear procedures for identifying potential risks, assessing their likelihood and impact, and implementing appropriate safeguards to mitigate them. You should also make sure that you can conduct these risk assessments effectively. You can hire qualified professionals to conduct the assessments or train staff members on risk assessment best practices.

5. Lack of HIPAA training for workforce members

All healthcare employees and business associates who have access to PHI are required to receive HIPAA training. This is to make sure they understand how to handle PHI to prevent accidental examples of HIPAA violations by employers. A lack of training can lead to unauthorized access, disclosure, or destruction of PHI.

hipaa breach - lack of training

To comply with HIPAA standards, your organization should have regular HIPAA compliance training sessions, as well as ongoing updates to make sure that staff members are aware of any changes to HIPAA regulations. Also, make sure that you have the appropriate resources and expertise available for effective HIPAA training. This involves hiring experts to facilitate the training or utilizing certified online training modules.

You can also train your team with a corporate LMS. SC Training (formerly EdApp) has a HIPAA compliance training course that’s readily available in its course library. All you have to do is import the course to your account and let your team have access to it. But you can also customize the course to match your brand and business needs.

6. Failure to implement appropriate administrative procedures

Administrative procedures are a critical aspect of HIPAA compliance, and they include policies and procedures that help to assure PHI safety. Failure to implement appropriate administrative procedures can lead to inadequate security measures being implemented, which can lead to disastrous PHI breaches.

hipaa breach - failure to implement procedures

You can assure compliance with HIPAA regulations by establishing policies for how PHI is accessed, stored, and transmitted in your organization. You can also have procedures for responding to security incidents and breaches. These measures will help mitigate potential risks and vulnerabilities to PHI, protecting patient privacy and avoiding the consequences of HIPAA violations.

7. Lack of encryption or other security measures

Encryption is a crucial component of HIPAA compliance, and it involves the conversion of data into a code to prevent unauthorized access. If PHI is not encrypted, it can be easily accessed by unauthorized individuals, leading to a HIPAA violation.

hipaa breach - lack of encryption

Every healthcare organization, including yours, should implement appropriate security measures to safeguard PHI to prevent this HIPAA violation example. This includes using encryption technologies, secure communication protocols, and access controls to limit access to PHI to authorized individuals only. You should also review and update your security policies and procedures regularly to make sure that they are effective and up-to-date.

8. Improper disposal of PHI

PHI can be in various forms, including paper records, electronic devices, and even old medical equipment. Improper disposal of PHI occurs when it’s not securely destroyed in a way that protects its confidentiality, such as by shredding or erasing the information. This can lead to a breach that will leave PHI in the hands of unauthorized individuals.

hipaa breach - improper disposal of PHI

Your organization should have clear procedures for disposing of PHI. You can have guidelines for the use of shredders or secure electronic data destruction methods. Just make sure that all staff members who handle PHI are aware of these policies so that they are followed consistently.

9. Retaliation against individuals for exercising their HIPAA rights

This example of a HIPAA violation occurs when an individual is punished or discriminated against for exercising their rights under HIPAA. This includes the right to access their own PHI or file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or a similar organization. HIPAA prohibits retaliation against individuals for exercising their rights, and healthcare organizations can face significant penalties and legal action for violating this provision.

hipaa breach - retaliation against individuals for exercising their rights

It would help your organization to comply with HIPAA regulations if you have procedures in place for addressing complaints and grievances related to HIPAA. This involves designating specific people or a department to handle complaints.

You should also foster a culture of compliance and encourage open communication between staff members and patients. Staff members should be encouraged to report any suspected retaliation or other HIPAA violations, and the organization should take prompt and appropriate action to investigate and address any reported violations. HIPAA compliance training courses will also help. 

10. Failure to obtain patient authorization

HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to obtain written authorization from the patient before disclosing their PHI for purposes other than treatment, payment, or healthcare operations. Failure to obtain proper authorization for disclosing PHI is a HIPAA breach that can result in fines, penalties, and legal action against your organization.

hipaa breach - failure to obtain authorization

So, your organization should establish outlined procedures for obtaining patient authorization for PHI disclosure. These should include guidelines for identifying the appropriate parties authorized to request PHI, the specific uses for which PHI may be disclosed, and the timeframe for obtaining patient authorization.


Donna Dane

Donna is an elearning content writer for SC Training (formerly EdApp), a mobile-based microlearning platform designed for today's digital training needs. When she's not writing web articles, she writes lines of code or songs or anything food-related.

Privacy|Terms & Conditions|Security| © SC Training 2024