Safeguarding Your Practice: 6 Proactive Ways to Stay HIPAA Compliant

January 20, 2024   |   Healthcare Professional

Whether you’re running a clinical practice as a soloist or are managing a small team, staying on top of the pile of administrative tasks can be the hardest part. HIPAA compliance is one area of your business you don’t want to overlook.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets the standards for safeguarding sensitive patient information — Protected health information (PHI). The laws change regularly, so it’s a good idea to review them at least annually. Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can result in hefty fines, reputational damage and even criminal charges. 

Consider some common HIPAA mistakes and how to avoid them.

Be sure any new staff or contractors take a HIPAA training course 

If you aren’t up to speed on HIPAA compliance, you may inadvertently release PHI. For example, third-party websites tracking cookies common on websites are no longer permissible on covered entities’ sites. Read more about HIPAA digital compliance here.

You, your employees and any contractors you work with should all take a HIPAA compliance training course before accessing patient data. This training should cover the basics of HIPAA, including the requirements for protecting patient data, the penalties for violating HIPAA regulations and the employee’s role in maintaining HIPAA compliance. The training should also be updated regularly to reflect changes in the HIPAA regulations.

In addition to initial training, it’s important to provide ongoing HIPAA training to your employees and contractors to cover any updates. For contractors and third-party companies, you’ll want to be sure they are HIPAA compliant if they have access to patient data before agreeing to partner with them. 

Add a privacy policy to your website

If you have patients, your healthcare practice website needs a HIPAA-compliant privacy policy posted there. Omitting a privacy policy is a mistake many small healthcare businesses make when designing their own website or working with a website design firm that’s not HIPAA-certified.

A privacy policy explains how you collect, use and protect website visitors’ personal information. 

If you do not have a privacy policy, create one as soon as possible. You can find many resources online to help you create a privacy policy, or you can hire an attorney to help you draft one.

Your privacy policy should be easy to find on your website, typically in the footer. You should have a link on your homepage and on any other pages where you collect personal information. It should also be written in clear and concise language that is easy for your visitors to understand.

Use a HIPAA-compliant email provider

Using a HIPAA-compliant email provider is essential for healthcare providers to safeguard patient data. HIPAA-compliant email providers offer robust security measures that protect patient health information from unauthorized access, use or disclosure. When choosing a HIPAA-compliant email provider, healthcare providers should consider several factors, including the provider’s security features, data encryption capabilities, access controls, and compliance track record. Typically, this means communicating with patients through a HIPAA-compliant patient portal.

You should also ensure your email system is configured correctly to maintain HIPAA compliance. This includes encrypting emails both at rest and in transit, using strong passwords and access controls and implementing multi-factor authentication for all email accounts. 

Know HIPAA rules for responding to reviews

Having a business in 2024 means responding to positive and negative online reviews. Many people make the mistake of disclosing PHI in online reviews. For example, if a patient leaves a public review praising your services, you cannot respond in a way that publicly discloses that they are in fact a patient in your practice. This is true even though the person is publicly admitting they are patient. 

Instead, you should thank them for the kind review and respond in general that ensuring patients have a positive experience is a priority in your practice. You’ll want to do the same for a negative review and provide a way to contact you to discuss the matter.

For example, you can respond to a positive review with the following: “Thank you for your kind review. We are committed to providing a warm and supportive experience for all our patients.”

Be prepared to respond to a breach

No matter how knowledgeable and careful you are, mistakes happen. For example, if you have two patients with similar last names and post PHI to the wrong patient’s portal, this is a HIPAA breach that requires a response.

A well-prepared response can minimize the damage caused by a breach and help protect patient privacy. Ideally, you should have a plan prepared before any breach occurs. Consider including the following: 

  1. An incident response plan outlining a process for assessing the breach and a plan for notifying patients and the government at
  2. Risk assessments help you identify potential vulnerabilities in your systems and processes to mitigate them.
  3. Monitor your systems for suspicious activity to detect breaches early on and minimize the damage.
  4. Conduct regular training for employees about protecting patient privacy.

Implement a robust security plan with cyber insurance

Cyber insurance can help you decrease the likelihood of a data breach and mitigate the damage if it occurs. Cyber insurance can help cover the costs of:

  • Notifying patients and the government of a breach
  • Investigating the breach
  • Restoring data
  • Providing credit monitoring services to patients
  • Defending your practice against lawsuits

Cyber security insurance ensures that a HIPAA breach does not mean the end of your business. A good carrier will also give you access to experienced vendors to support you throughout the notification and recovery process. These include legal counsel, forensics experts and even negotiators in the case of a significant ransomware attack. 


CM&F Group offers professional liability insurance to over 150 types of healthcare professionals. All our coverage options are available online, allowing our clients to obtain liability insurance coverage within minutes.  

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