dental nurse looking at patient info and need to make sure its hipaa compliant

HIPAA Compliance for Dental Offices

HIPAA is a federal law designed to protect private patient information. As healthcare providers, dental offices are legally required to fully comply with the requirements outlined in HIPAA. Unfortunately, HIPAA is complex. It can be easy to engage in practices that inadvertently leave you in violation. 

HIPAA violations can be the end of your dental practice. Violations can potentially lead to tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Some types of violations can even result in criminal charges and jail time. 

If you own a dental practice, it’s worth taking the time to learn about common HIPAA violations in the dental industry and how you can keep your practice protected.

Common Dental Office HIPAA Violations

Dental offices can accidentally violate HIPAA in a multitude of ways. Some of these can come as a surprise. For example, responding to online patient reviews is a common reason dental practices are fined for HIPAA violations. 

Responding to a review might seem like good customer service. However, any type of comment that confirms the reviewer was seen at your practice is considered to be a HIPAA violation because it breaks patient privacy laws. 

Some of the most common HIPAA violations that occur at dental practices include: 

  • Failing to conduct the mandatory annual security risk assessment (SRA)
  • Incorrectly disposing of old patient records
  • Not following guidelines for medical record access
  • Charging excessive fees for copies of medical records
  • Lack of security for sensitive patient materials
  • Insufficient data encryption
  • Sharing patient testimonials or photos online without written consent

Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to HIPAA. Protecting your practice and avoiding significant fines and other legal consequences requires identifying potential issues and taking steps to correct them.

Why Dental Office HIPAA Violations Happen

HIPAA violations in a dental office can often be split into two categories: lack of knowledge and lack of procedure. For example, suppose that a dental practice asks a few patients to take a photo and give a short testimony for use on the practice’s social media account. Without written permission from the patients, this seemingly benign marketing move is a HIPAA violation that often leads to fines. 

This example shows how a lack of knowledge often leads a dental practice to violate HIPAA. The other common scenario is a lack of procedure. This can take many forms, and it’s one of the most common reasons why a disgruntled patient reports a violation. 

Dental office employees know that patient information is private and protected. However, it’s common for all sorts of violations to occur. Leaving patient records up on a computer screen where they’re visible to another patient is a HIPAA violation. Two staff members discussing a patient’s dental issues or treatment within hearing distance of another patient is another common example. 

Protecting Your Dental Practice From HIPAA Compliance Violations

Setting strict policies and procedures — and ensuring they’re followed — is a good way to avoid HIPAA violations. Another is to ensure that all employees are fully informed of their legal obligations to protect patient privacy.

It typically takes a legal professional to help ensure your dental practice is HIPAA compliant. A dental law attorney can review your dental office’s practices and policies and identify high-risk areas. A lawyer will examine any practices that might be explicit HIPAA violations and practices that leave you at risk of committing a HIPAA violation. 

Call An Experienced Nationwide Dental Law Attorney Today

HIPAA compliance is essential for protecting both your dental practice and your patients. The best way to ensure your dental practice is HIPAA compliant is to consult a dental law attorney about the practices and policies you have in place. If your dental practice has come under fire for a HIPAA violation, the best way to mitigate the damage is to involve a dental law attorney at once.

Mahan Law is a nationwide dental law firm. As a firm that focuses specifically on legal challenges dental practitioners face, we have the industry experience you want on your side. 

Our experienced dental law attorneys are ready to help. Call Mahan Law today to schedule a free consultation.