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How dentists should comply with HIPAA

Dentists should ensure their methods of HIPAA compliance are up to date. According to Dentistry IQ, all positions within the dental field have to know how to approach the legislation, including receptionists, assistants, dental hygienists and IT professionals. HIPAA has been changing due to various breaches in the health care industry.


Not many, in the dental profession, have the time to review HIPAA and its regulations. However, HIPAA's job is important. It helps protect private information and keep health records confidential. With the health care industry facing audits this year, compliance is especially crucial.

Training for HIPAA and keeping up to date

The purpose of HIPAA is to create security and privacy protections for electronic documentation. Health IT Security reported that the rules also helped organizations stay apprised of the proper methods for destroying patient data and hardware to keep information safe. Education to understand these processes is necessary for any health care company. Training should involve open communication, as employees unfamiliar with the technology may have questions for supervisors about HIPAA and the digital records they're using.

Health IT Security found that improper training is often the cause of data breaches in this industry, so it is extremely important that workers understand how to properly handle medical records and private information. In larger corporations, training and HIPAA compliance isn't as much of an inconvenience. Big companies may have guards to escort people to sensitive records, for instance, but money doesn't grant small organizations that option. Smaller businesses must resort to other innovative ways to protect medical records.

Cybersecurity and HIPAA

The connection between HIPAA and cybersecurity is a big one. According to another article by Dentistry IQ, dentists often believe they're not targets for hackers. But when an infiltrator has to choose between a large company and a small dental practice, the latter is typically much easier to break into. Cyberattacks are inevitable, and dentists need to prepare for them.

Dentistry IQ highlighted how HIPAA compliance makes it necessary to maintain patient privacy through cybersecurity measures. Email encryption is one basic and affordable option dentists can use to protect data. The source also suggested being aware of computer placement in the office, making screens available to view by anyone other than employees may constitute a violation. These computers should only be accessible through individual usernames and password, which must be complex and updated every few months. Staff members must be aware of these policies and be capable of complying with them.

How should dentists respond to breaches?

First of all, take time to implement HIPAA compliance policies and designate a HIPAA security officer. Dentists need to think about the potential costs associated with threats, such as the fines and penalties for breached data, investigation costs and legal fees.

If dentists think a breach has occurred, they need to immediately begin an investigation. If they wait to report an incident, they're at risk of violating HIPAA, as the legislation requires a timely response. If the dentist office is in full compliance with HIPAA and their data is encrypted, then they are exempt from reporting the incident.

Cybersecurity might not seem like a top priority for dentists, but it's necessary for them to secure their data and stay on top of HIPAA regulations. Using secure email encryption services, firewalls and antivirus software is recommended to secure data and keep patient information private.


David Bailey is Senior Vice President at Protected Trust. 

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