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HIPAA Olympics win gold

March 1, 2007
by Marlene Haglund-Hatch, RHIA
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Preparing questions for the Olympians

Preparing questions for the Olympians





HIPAA Olympians at the front desk

HIPAA Olympians at the front desk


After the HIPAA security and privacy laws were passed, we poised ourselves to become HIPAA-compliant at the Saint Elizabeth Home in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. We immediately formed a HIPAA team to review the laws and their potential implications for our residents. Our multidisciplinary team meets bimonthly and is composed of representatives from social services, administration, health information services, in-service staff, and nursing services. With the full support of our administrator and CEO, who give us creative freedom, we set on a course to find a fun method of educating our employees about this new—and serious—law.

Employee education and adoption are vital in becoming compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), so we spent significant time thinking about how we could inform the entire staff without boring them to tears, while motivating them, increasing morale, and team building. Because 2006 was an Olympic year—and knowing everyone's fascination with sports—we thought, “Why not challenge all of our staff to participate in a 20-hour HIPAA Olympics event?” And so our program evolved. The goals of the Saint Elizabeth Home HIPAA Olympics were to:

  • Provide an educational vehicle for staff members that would meet the statute requirement of HIPAA and Public Law 107-347 of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

  • Make all employees aware of the HIPAA Administrative Simplification law and its safeguards, risk assessment, and privacy/security rules.

  • Foster community spirit among the staff and further develop communication, morale, and trust among all participants.

During the planning stages in October 2005, the team selected a 20-hour period during which staff would most likely be on hand to participate. Our Olympic “athletes” committed to being at work during that period and divided themselves into five teams, named specifically for leaping animals in recognition of our commitment to the LEAP (Learn, Empower, Achieve, and Produce) program of person-centered care. (Many staff members were already certified at that time and we had committed to 100% employee LEAP certification across all disciplines.) Teams were named Rabbit, Leapfrog, Leaping Lizard, Kangaroo, and Tadpole.


The HIPAA Olympics torch

The HIPAA Olympics torch


Each team was composed of randomly assigned members, and every employee received his or her designation via an addressed paycheck attachment. That communication included an invitation to participate that featured our toga-clad administrator, team assignments, rules of participation, and a two-page article with consolidated HIPAA facts. Each team member was provided with five time slots during which he or she could come to the Olympic Coliseum (our employee cafeteria) and answer one of 45 questions developed by the HIPAA team. With a correct answer, the Olympian would then progress to the next qualifying round of competition.

To mark the official start of the Olympic Games, we held an opening ceremony at noon on February 22, 2006. As staff members arrived in the main lobby, they were given an animal-coded sticker so that they could identify and congregate with their corresponding team members. Our Olympic events included indoor teddy bear sledding, a crossword puzzle, foam archery with a Nerf bazooka gun, a scavenger hunt, and stationary bicycling. To complete the authentic Olympic feeling, we enlarged photos from the 1908 Olympic Games and posted them around the room with balloons at the site of each competition. Everyone helped us prepare the room for this fun celebration, including the residents of our Alzheimer's total care unit, who helped prepare and decorate the scoreboard.

Competitions were held five times throughout the afternoon, evening, and early morning to provide staff from all shifts the op-portunity to participate. Each of the teams rivaled and encouraged each other throughout the entire period, and we watched as teams that were behind after the day shift became front-runners by the end of the event.


Lucy Sanchez teddy bear sledding

Lucy Sanchez teddy bear sledding


Winning teams were announced at a 7:00 a.m. closing ceremony the next day. Gold medalists were each awarded a $10 Wal-Mart gift certificate and gold foil–wrapped chocolates; silver medalists were awarded a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card and silver foil–wrapped chocolates; and bronze medalists were awarded a $2 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card and bronze foil–wrapped chocolates. A breakfast of fresh fruit, juices, muffins, and eggs was delivered to each unit and administrative area to thank everyone for their participation. As an added incentive, the day before the event we held an hourly quiz (delivered over the paging system) to address the needs of staff members who were not scheduled to work during the HIPAA Olympics. Those who answered correctly received $2 lunch gift cards for the employee cafeteria.

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