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Ensuring HIPAA Compliance In Your Nursing Home

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When you're a nursing home administrator, it's up to you to ensure that everyone in your facility is complying with the HIPAA privacy law. This law protects the personal medical information of the residents and respecting it prevents your employees and the nursing home itself from being the targets of lawsuits and other problems. Utilizing these pointers, HIPAA compliance can be encouraged and followed by everyone.

Offer a Refresher During Orientation

While nurses and nursing aides receive information about HIPAA during the course of their career training, after working in the field for a while they may only have a vague memory of what compliance entails. To help them and your facility, it's smart to offer a refresher presentation about the law during their orientation. That way, you don't have to guess how well they understand their responsibilities when dealing with a patient's medical information. You might even want to ask them to sign a document saying that they've received and understood the information they were given.

Monitor Appropriate Access

You might already have some software in place that allows staff members to access medication information and other records. It is critical that you monitor access to these electronic records so that unauthorized people cannot get into resident records without permission. You may, for example, require the use of a password in order to get to certain records.

It may also be prudent to dictate rules about employees accessing information when they are not in the facility. Tablets, computers and phones may present an opportunity to log into your nursing home's network, so care must be taken to ensure resident records are protected. Whether you forbid remote logins completely or come up with other measures to address this, be aware that employees might lose their devices or share them with others. Consult your IT team and attorneys before putting a plan into action.

Discuss Compliance with Families

In nursing homes, compliance issues can arise daily from interactions with residents' families. An adult son of a resident might ask to look at their parent's file or inquire about information that is personal. Staff may feel a bit of pressure to pass on information, but in many cases doing so could violate HIPAA. Without understanding that, relatives can become frustrated, as they are only trying to get information regarding their family member. In your role as administrator, you can ask staff members to send frustrated relatives to you so that you can explain why staffers aren't free to give out information; you can then offer guidance about how they may get the data they're seeking. Their family member might need to sign paperwork releasing the information to them, for example.

Complying with HIPAA guidelines is necessary to protect everyone in your nursing home. Work with auditors and software vendors to compile compliance management tools that can be helpful. For more information, contact a service like Ethix360.