Exposed PHI and Snapchat – The scary intersection of HIPAA safeguards and social media

§ 530 (c) of the HIPAA regulations provides, with regard to safeguards, that “a covered entity must have in place appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected health information.”  We typically think of “safeguards” as a security issue, and therefore related mainly to electronic PHI.  However, twice in the last three weeks, we’ve had to deal with patients photographing and posting pictures of PHI that was unprotected – once a screenshot and another a paper form.  One was meant to embarrass the provider as revenge for making the patient wait.  Another was simply meant to illustrate the provider’s laxness.  Both incidents were troublesome to resolve.

The lesson from these events is that HIPAA’s requirement to secure PHI is not simply an IT responsibility.  Providers should also continually monitor and evaluate their precautions regarding paper records, exposed computer screens, etc.

Written by: Gregory D. Frost

Frost Gregory headshot

Recent $400K HIPAA Settlement with FQHC Highlights Importance of HIPAA Security Management Process

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), recently entered a $400,000 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) settlement with Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN), a federally-qualified health center (FQHC). The settlement serves as a stark reminder that all covered entities, including FQHCs, must meet the HIPAA Security Rule requirements and that OCR is continuing to step up enforcement efforts in this area. Continue reading

First Ever HIPAA Enforcement Action for Delay in Breach Reporting

A delay in timely breach notification may now cost you. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently entered a settlement with Presence Health for untimely reporting a breach of unsecured protected health information (PHI). Presence discovered that its operating room schedules containing PHI for 836 individuals were missing on October 22, 2013. Under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, breaches like this which involve >500 individuals are required to be reported to the individuals, prominent media outlets and OCR without unreasonable delay and in no case later than 60 days. Presence did not report the breach to OCR until January 31, 2014, approximately 100 days after discovering the breach. OCR’s investigation concluded that Presence failed to notify, without unreasonable delay and within 60 days of discovering the breach, each of the 836 individuals, the media and OCR. Presence agreed to pay $475,000 to settle the potential violations.

The Press Release and Resolution Agreement are available on the OCR website.

Written by: Jacob Simpson

Jacob Simpson_headshot

Clay Countryman and Alec Alexander to speak at MGMA-New Orleans Chapter Workshop

Clay J. Countryman and Alec Alexander will be speaking at a workshop hosted by the Medical Group Management Association’s New Orleans chapter on September 28, 2016. Mr. Countryman will present “HIPAA Phase 2 Audits: Are you ready?” and Mr. Alexander will present “Fraud and Abuse: Compliance for Physician Practices and Recent Hot Topics. The workshop will be located at the East Jefferson General Hospital Conference Center – Esplanade I in Metairie, Louisiana. For more information or to register, click here.

Countryman, Clay headshot        Alexander, Alec headshot
Clay Countryman                     Alec Alexander

OCR Phase 2 HIPAA Audits Have Begun: Are you Ready?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has started a second phase of audits for compliance with HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Standards. The OCR has previously conducted an audit pilot phase and Phase 1 audits of HIPAA covered entities (i.e., healthcare providers, clearinghouses, and health plans). In this Phase 2 of the HIPAA audits, OCR will audit both covered entities and their business associates. Continue reading

Physician Practice and Hospital Pay $750,000 and $1.5 Million for Failure to Have HIPAA Business Associate Agreements

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced two separate settlements with a hospital and a physician practice that highlight the importance of having HIPAA business associate agreements. Each of these HIPAA settlements were based on the failure to have a HIPAA business associate agreement in place with a third party that a hospital and a physician practice had disclosed patient’s healthcare information to perform certain administrative services. In each case, the third party recipients of patient electronic healthcare information committed or contributed to a breach under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Continue reading

OCR Settlement with Physician Group Highlights Need For HIPAA Business Associate Agreements

This week, the OCR announced another HIPAA settlement based on a provider’s failure to have a Business Associate Agreement in place before disclosing PHI to a third party business vendor.

OCR had initiated an investigation of Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, P.A. of North Carolina following receipt of a breach report which revealed a release of protected health information (PHI) without first having a business associate agreement (BAA) in place. Continue reading