How Students Benefit from HIPAA ‘Violations’

Used syringes, open specimen containers, and even patient files were found scattered around a classroom at Globe University-La Crosse. Why so much disarray? To create a memorable hands-on learning experience for students.

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Insructor Ree Nae Roberge-Greene leads her students in the ethics activity.

Student Detectives Find Violations

Students in Ree Nae Roberge-Greene’s Ethics class were sent into a medical assisting classroom set up as a clinic to help them learn about HIPAA violations. Greene carefully arranged fake patient files, prescriptions, test results, X-rays and other health care items throughout the room. Some were clear HIPAA violations, some vague. Acting as detectives, students searched the room and identified violations.

“Students were able to see how easy it might be to accidentally make a HIPAA violation, and then consider what kinds of changes might need to be made for each kind of error to be corrected,” explained Greene.

HIPAA Violations Feel Real

The ethics activity simulated a real-life situation Globe students may encounter. “The experience during the HIPAA violation scavenger hunt felt very real,” shared Danielle Philippi, medical assistant program student. “I feel the things we found…are very likely to come across in an actual hospital setting.”

Applying the knowledge from Greene’s class, students were able to find and document violations in the activity. “While searching for HIPAA violations in the clinical classroom, it gave me a better understanding of what can be a HIPAA violation,” explained Nan Foster, medical assistant program student. “It happens every day in the medical field because of carelessness.”

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Students work together to identify HIPAA violations.

Learning Made Fun

Pairing class objectives and career-related exercises like a simulated scavenger hunt has the power to engage students. “Searching for the HIPAA violations was good educational information and it was fun to do,” shared Krystal Hanson, medical assistant program student.

When students are engaged, they can better retain information to apply in career settings. “Hands-on learning is important for all coursework,” explained Greene. “Students retain a greater portion of things that they do rather than just read and speak about.”

Education that Makes a Difference

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Students present the HIPAA violations to Ree Nae.

To reinforce a stronger understanding of class material and to assess students’ application of the information, Globe instructors like Greene go beyond lectures and tests.

“Memorizing the rules of HIPAA might be important, but knowing you can actually apply them is ultimately what we want students to do,” said Greene. “If students are being taught in a hands-on way, they may not feel like they are in school, but doing something they think is beneficial to the world or themselves.”

Do students agree that career-related projects are good learning methods? Yes. “Class activities such as these make learning fun,” said Kari Kellar, medical assisting program. Several students agreed that the exercise was a great balance of fun and education. “This was a very good activity,” shared Michael Bolton, IT degree student. “It brought a whole new perspective on HIPAA and working in the medical field.”