Whenever Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA) is mentioned, probably the first thing that crosses everyone’s mind is the Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP), which we usually receive from our doctor or dentist.
Now, you might be wondering, what is Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) in HIPAA and how does it work?
The short answer is as follows:
The Notice of Privacy Practices is a notice that describes how a person’s medical information or, legally put, Protected Health Information (PHI), will be stored, shared, and used. It provides comprehensive details on all of an individual’s health privacy rights.
It is a part of the HIPAA and is essential if you deal with PHI. This means you need to have maximum physical, network, and process security measures in place to avoid any breaches.
If you fail in this regard, you may end up with a minimum fine of $120. While HIPAA violations can be issued up to a maximum of $25,000 per violation category, per calendar year.
Now, if you’re wondering how NPP works in detail, read on. Here’s what we’ll cover below:
- How Does HIPAA Work? Quick Recap And What You Need To Know
- What Is The HIPAA Notice Of Privacy Practices (NPP) And Why Is It So Important?
- Do I Need the HIIPA Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP)? Here’s How to Provide It
How Does HIPAA Work? Quick Recap And What You Need To Know
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA is a privacy rule, also termed the Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, encompassing regulations for the use and disclosure of a person’s health information.
If you deal with PHI, then you need to be quite diligent when it comes to HIPAA.
Statistics show that in 2021, healthcare data breach crimes were at the highest in history, according to HIPAA Journal.
5 Most common causes of HIPAA violation
Before we cover how the notice of privacy practices work, let’s take a look at 5 of the most common HIPAA violations that result in hefty fines:
Failing to keep a check on how your employees deal with PHI could result in a HIPAA violation. UCLA learned it the hard way when it was fined $865K because one of its employees accessed sensitive medical information of celebrities without authorization.
Failure in conducting an organization-wide risk analysis to identify the possible risk of PHI breaches is another major reason for financial penalties. The Premera Blue Cross (PBC) became a victim of this violation and was forced to pay $6.85 million to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Ignoring risk management of identified risk is another main culprit behind high HIPAA violation fines. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services had to sustain damage of $1.7 million because they neither identified the risk nor had a risk management process in place.
You could be subject to a heavy fine if you deny patients access to their health care records or take over 30 days to provide their required info. Cignet Health of Prince George’s County received a penalty of $4.3 million for this violation.
Failing in entering a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement with all vendors with access to PHI is another major penalty bringer. Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, P.A. of North Carolina suffered a fine of $750,000 as a consequence of this violation.
See how to create HIPAA-compliant direct mail for more info on this.
Now, let’s take a look at NPP.
What Is The HIPAA Notice Of Privacy Practices (NPP) And Why Is It So Important?
The HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) is a notice that doctors, and dentists issue to their patients outlining how their Protected Health Information (PHI) will be stored, shared, and used.
It contains all of an individual’s medical privacy rights.
With the increase in privacy data breaches, NPP has become increasingly important. It is a relatively easier part from a ton of complex pieces of a complete HIPAA program.
However, regardless of its rather easy procedure, only 2% of healthcare organizations qualify for meeting NPP standards, according to Abyde.
Meanwhile, 66% of the participants either completely fail or don’t make the necessary efforts to achieve the required results.
Now, you might be wondering, why do so many medical practitioners fail in fulfilling the NPP criterion?
The answer is that even though they try to comply with the standards and produce a document, they fail to incorporate the essential elements of the notice in a language that’s understandable by the masses.
In addition to thin NPP content, most of the entities failed to post the notices on their websites in a prominent manner so that the customers could easily access them.
This means, that just having an NPP isn’t enough, you need to place it online in a way that anyone can view it without difficulty.
See our guide on healthcare document management best practices for more information on what this looks like in terms of healthcare operations.
Now, let’s take a look at the next question when it comes to the notice of privacy practices.
Do I Need the HIIPA Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP)? Here’s How to Provide It
If you’re a health plan or covered health care provider organization, then you need to develop and distribute a notice of privacy practices (NPP) to your customers and display it on your website as per the HIPAA privacy law.
Simply developing an NPP isn’t necessary, you need to provide it securely to your patients, or else the core purpose of its development will be lost.
Following are the 3 main ways in which you can present the NPP to your patients:
- Give it to your patient on their first appointment. The NPP should be accompanied by other essential documents, for instance, the HIPAA Authorisation Form. Don’t forget to get it signed by them!
- Display the NPP at a clear and accessible location in your facility.
- Display the NPP on your website so that it's easily viewable by users.
If you are looking for templates to develop an NPP, then the best location is the Health and Human Services website. You can access multiple NPP templates in numerous languages on their website here.
Automatically Generating HIPAA Compliant Documents
Hope this guide to the notice of privacy practices was helpful!
Considering the $50,000 per violation to $6.8M over healthcare data breaches covered above, it goes without saying that making sure you’re HIPAA and NPP complaint is of utmost importance.
Besides, breaching HIPAA could do some serious damage to your organization’s finances, as is evident from the previous examples in which big names were fined millions.
Luckily, technological advances are there to save you from going through enormous efforts to be compliant with HIPAA. Using a document generation software, you can generate HIPAA-compliant documents such as:
- Patient information records.
- Responsibilities and rights documents.
- Informed patient consent documents.
- Invoices and other financial documents.
- Test results.
- Insurance documents.
- Standard communication documents.
- And more.
For this, you’d need to develop custom digital versions of your documents to connect to an API.
It will add document generation capability to your system by communicating between the healthcare platform and the server, leading to automated user request management, for instance, when a new user signs up on your telehealth app, they’ll automatically receive the NPP.
In addition to sending the health care documents to the patient, an API will save it on the cloud as well allowing healthcare teams or regulatory bodies to access them easily.
All in all, in order to stay afloat in the health industry as a health care specialist you need to ensure that you’re on page with all the HIPAA regulations, specifically the NPP.
The most efficient way to do this with minimal effort and the best possible results is through an automatic document generation system.
If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, be sure to see how Inkit helps healthcare organizations through document generation and secure storage systems!