Patients’ rights to privacy in their health information is governed by the federal statute known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law imposes restrictions on sharing a patient’s medical records or personal health information. Generally speaking, a patient must expressly authorize the sharing of their medical information. Sharing can include transfers of electronic data, mailing or faxing written records, or discussing a patient’s personal health information. Sharing of medical information, even between medical providers, cannot occur without the patient’s consent. 

Common Causes of HIPAA Violations

Some of the most frequent causes of HIPAA violations include:

  • Inadequate training of employees in privacy practices
  • Inadequate policies governing the privacy of patient records and information
  • Improper disposal of patient records
  • Negligent cybersecurity practices, which can lead to patient information being stolen through hacking
  • Theft of electronic devices containing patient information
  • Transmitting patient data through unencrypted means
  • Gossiping among employees

HIPAA requires healthcare providers such as hospitals or doctor’s offices to train employees on HIPAA privacy regulations and to adopt security measures to prevent patient information from being improperly disclosed. 

What Happens After a HIPAA Violation

Depending on the nature of a HIPAA violation, a healthcare provider may face various consequences. For less serious, unintentional violations, a provider may face no penalty so long as they correct the violation, usually within 30 days of receiving notice of the violation. However, for more serious breaches, intentional or reckless violations, or repeated violations of HIPAA regulations, healthcare providers can face fines that range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. 

In the most egregious cases, individuals who violate HIPAA protections can even face criminal prosecution. A conviction for knowingly violating HIPAA with malicious intent or for pecuniary or personal gain can result in penalties that include up to 10 years in prison, fines, and the loss of medical licensing. 

Are HIPAA Violations Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider renders treatment that fails to comply with the accepted standard of care. Although the specifics of the standard of care vary from patient to patient, the standard is generally defined as the treatment decisions and actions that other providers of similar training and experience would undertake in identical circumstances. Thus, medical malpractice law does not hold providers liable for mistakes or errors in treatment that would have been made by most other providers in the same circumstances.

In most cases, a HIPAA violation does not constitute an act of medical malpractice. HIPAA regulations are intended to protect a patient’s right to privacy in their personal medical information, rather than establishing a standard of care. However, there are rare circumstances in which HIPAA violations may entitle you to pursue compensation in a medical malpractice claim. If your medical information was disclosed without your consent, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and to discuss options you may have for seeking justice and financial recovery for the violation of your privacy. 

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your HIPAA Violation Case in New Jersey

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in New Jersey? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Rochelle Park medical malpractice attorneys at The Epstein Law Firm are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout New Jersey, including Mahwah, Paramus, Ridgewood, and Newark. Call us today at (201) 380-7687 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 340 West Passaic St., Rochelle Park, NJ 07762.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.