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What are the consequences for nurses who violate HIPAA rules?

| Jul 8, 2021 | Administrative Law |

If you’re a nurse, you’re well-acquainted with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It’s intended to protect people’s medical privacy. 

Health care entities and their employees know that if they fail to comply with HIPAA rules, they can face significant penalties. As a nurse, what can happen to you if you have violated HIPAA rules?

How serious was the violation?

It depends on how serious the violation was and if it was intentional. If your HIPAA violation was accidental and it didn’t result in any serious negative consequences for the patient or your employer, you may get a write-up, warning and/or additional HIPAA training. An example might be a nurse neglecting to place old files in the correct location for shredding.

If the violation was serious, even if it was purely accidental, you will likely face disciplinary action by your employer and the Kentucky Board of Nursing. Maybe you gave patient information to a person you mistakenly thought was their spouse. If you lose your job, even if you retain your license, getting another nursing position will be difficult.

What about violations with malicious intent or for personal gain?

This kind of violation can potentially result in criminal charges in addition to disciplinary action. For example, an employer would be required to report a nurse’s theft of personal health information (PHI) to law enforcement.  If someone does that for personal gain, they could spend years behind bars. 

Another example of a serious violation that’s been increasing now that everyone has their cell phone on them at all times. It involves taking photos or videos of patients without their knowledge. Whether you record a famous person who’s under sedation and plan to sell the footage to TMZ or you’re videotaping a patient for your own amusement, that HIPAA violation is certain to have myriad consequences.

If you’re facing disciplinary action by the Kentucky Board of Nursing, it’s wise to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your career and your license.