Complying with the Requirement for HIPAA Training in a Dental Office

The requirement for HIPAA training in a dental office is the same as the requirement for any other Covered Entity. However, due to members of a dental office´s workforce often performing multiple roles, complying with the requirement for HIPAA training in a dental office can be challenging.

Most dental offices qualify as HIPAA Covered Entities because they process covered transactions. For this reason, a dental office is required to “train all members of its workforce on the policies and procedures with respect to Protected Health Information […] as necessary and appropriate for the members of the workforce to carry out their functions.” (see 45 CFR § 164.530).

For many dental offices, complying with this requirement can be challenging. Members of the workforce may perform multiple functions; and, in smaller dental offices, an individual employee could be a receptionist, a dental assistant, and a payment processor. Therefore, in addition to HIPAA training, they may also require training on Section 1557 and PCI-DSS regulations.

Having to comply with so many training requirements can stretch the resources of a dental office – notwithstanding that employees have to retain the information and comply with it on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, HIPAA training in a dental office is likely to differ from HIPAA training in other medical environments due to the volume and nature of interactions with patients.

Why HIPAA Training in a Dental Office is Likely to Differ

The way in which many dental offices operate means there are more occasions when accidental or incidental disclosures of PHI may occur – for example, when calling out names in a busy waiting room. It is also the case that the nature of patient communications can be influenced by emergency patients, nervous patients, and “ill-behaved” patients – particularly ill-behaved child patients.

This implies that the nature of HIPAA training in a dental office should be focused on patient interaction in order to prevent accidental and incidental disclosures as much as possible. Members of the workforce may need a more complete education on the Privacy and Breach Notification Rules as well as more specific instructions on how to comply with the Minimum Necessary Standard.

The same risks of accidental and incidental disclosures can be present when processing cash or credit card payments – particularly when a partner of parent is paying for a patient´s treatment – and when dealing with Business Associates who may be unfamiliar with the requirements of HIPAA – for example when finance companies are contacted at short notice to fund emergency treatment.

Overcoming the Challenges of HIPAA Training

With so many regulations to comply with – and potentially fewer resources to provide training and monitor compliance – dental offices can find it difficult to overcome the challenges of HIPAA training. However, it is possible to take advantage of off-the-shelf HIPAA training courses that provide members of the workforce with the basics of HIPAA.

The courses cover subjects such as the Privacy Rule, patients´ rights, and the Minimum Necessary Standard so members of the workforce already have an understanding of HIPAA before being provided with policy and procedure training as required by 45 CFR § 164.530. Off-the-shelf training helps trainees put policy and procedure training into context, aids retention, and supports compliance in environments in which multiple regulations have to be complied with.

Dental offices can also take advantage of more advanced training courses that cover the fundamentals of the Security Rule training requirements (see 45 CFR § 164.308) and which can be tailored to account for state laws that pre-empt HIPAA. It is worth noting that both the basic and the advanced training courses are usually provided as online training modules that members of the workforce can take in their free time or that can be used selectively to provide refresher training.