Archives: HIPAA/HITECH

Subscribe to HIPAA/HITECH RSS Feed

‘Apparent Inconsistency’ in HITECH Language Leads HHS OCR to Significantly Decrease Yearly Fines

On April 26, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued an announcement that the annual penalty cap for three of the four tiers of HIPAA violations would be reduced significantly to match what HHS called a “better reading” of inconsistent language found in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical … Continue Reading

Deeper Dive: The Landscape of Healthcare Data Breaches

Healthcare was the industry most affected by data breaches in 2018. We worked on nearly 200 healthcare matters involving multispecialty academic medical centers, hospital systems, small and large physician practices, small and large health insurers, and biotech and pharmaceutical companies. In 2018, health information alone was just behind Social Security numbers (which can also be … Continue Reading

Deter Workforce Snooping in Electronic Medical Records Through Education and Training

On March 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Linda Sue Kalina pled guilty to wrongfully disclosing the protected health information (PHI) of another individual in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Kalina was a patient information coordinator with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) … Continue Reading

Trojan Malware Reclaims the Top Spot as the Greatest Cyber Threat to the Healthcare Sector

Cybersecurity threats continued to plague the healthcare sector in 2018. Healthcare organizations notified twice as many individuals under HIPAA and other notification statutes in 2018 as compared with 2017. According to a new report from Malwarebytes Labs, 2019 State of Malware Report, trojan malware was the greatest threat to the healthcare sector in 2018.[1] Specifically, … Continue Reading

Best Cybersecurity Practices for Healthcare Organizations – Insider-Caused Data Loss

This article is part of a series of blog posts exploring the recommendations and guidance Health & Human Services (HHS) provides to healthcare organizations in its Cybersecurity Best Practices report. For previous articles in the series, click here. While any security incident may cause an entity heartburn, when the incident is traced back to an … Continue Reading

Clearly Defined HIPAA and FERPA Policies May Help Covered Entities in Defending a Claim for Unemployment Compensation

Recently, in Dantry v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 1665 C.D. 2017 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2019), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed the order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) which  had affirmed the Unemployment Compensation Referee’s decision that Jami M. Dantry (Dantry) was ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits because Dantry’ s conduct … Continue Reading

Best Cybersecurity Practices for Healthcare Organizations – Loss or Theft of Devices

This article is part of a series of blog posts exploring the recommendations and guidance Health & Human Services (HHS) provides to healthcare organizations in its Cybersecurity Best Practices report. For previous articles in the series, click here. The report on cybersecurity best practices (Report) weighs in on one of the issues many entities find … Continue Reading

Best Cybersecurity Practices for Healthcare Organizations – Ransomware Prevention

This article is part of a series of blog posts exploring the recommendations and guidance Health & Human Services (HHS) provides to healthcare organizations in its “Cybersecurity Best Practices” report. For previous articles in the series, click here. The report on cybersecurity best practices (Report) is not the first time HHS has discussed the prevalent … Continue Reading

What Can We Learn From the Healthcare Data Breach ‘Wall of Shame’?

In addition to dealing with the public outcry and regulatory scrutiny resulting from a healthcare data breach, covered entities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or their business associates) are required to report breaches to the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights. But the pain doesn’t end there. … Continue Reading

The Use of Smart Speakers in Healthcare

Smart speakers are voice-activated, internet-connected devices with an integrated virtual assistant that can answer questions, follow instructions and control other smart devices. Nearly one in five U.S. adults has access to a smart speaker, and it has been estimated that in 2018, the number of smart speakers installed reached 100 million worldwide. Using voice recognition, … Continue Reading

Best Cybersecurity Practices for Healthcare Organizations – Phishing Prevention

This article is part of a series of blog posts exploring the recommendations and guidance Health and Human Services (HHS) provides healthcare organizations in its Cybersecurity Best Practices report. For previous articles in the series, click here. In its report on cybersecurity best practices, HHS highlights email phishing attacks as one of the top threats … Continue Reading

Provisioning Workforce Access to Electronic Protected Health Information: It May Be ‘Common Sense,’ but Is It Easy to Implement?

In December 2018, Pagosa Springs Medical Center settled potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rule violations and entered into a corrective action plan with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The incident involved a former employee who continued to have remote … Continue Reading

Physician Hospitalist Group Settles with OCR and Enters Into a Resolution Agreement for Failure to Have HIPAA Policies and Business Associate Agreement in Place

On Dec. 5, 2018, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Advanced Care Hospitalists PL (ACH) had entered into a $500,000 settlement and resolution agreement (RA) resulting from OCR’s investigation of ACH’s breach notification on April 11, 2014, and subsequent supplemental notification. On … Continue Reading

HHS Releases Interim Guidance on Authorizations for Research

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released interim guidance on sufficiency of authorizations for future uses or disclosures of protected health information (PHI) for research purposes. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) permits covered entities and business associates to use or disclosure PHI only as permitted by the … Continue Reading

OCR Announces Intention to Move Forward With Development of Methodology to Distribute Enforcement Funds to Victims of HIPAA Violations

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) updated its agenda, outlining proposed and final rules as well as pre-rule document releases for 2018. A notable, and highly anticipated, advance notice of proposed rulemaking included on the agenda indicates OCR will seek comments on establishing a way to distribute funds collected from Health Insurance Portability and Accountability … Continue Reading

SAMHSA Updates Privacy Regulations to Reflect Advancements in Healthcare

On Jan. 3, 2018, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued its final rule regarding the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records Part 2. These changes become effective Feb. 2, 2018. As background, the Confidentiality of Substance Use Discover Patient Records Part 2 protects patient records maintained in connection with any … Continue Reading

Aetna Agrees to Pay $17 Million and Implement Best-Practices Policy to Settle Claims of HIV-related Privacy Violations

Last week, Aetna agreed to resolve class action claims of privacy violations related to the disclosure of thousands of members’ HIV status. The agreement will require the insurance giant to pay over $17 million into a settlement fund, the majority of which will be distributed to members of the affected class and to develop and … Continue Reading

Small Health Care Providers: Do you really know what your IT services vendor is providing to secure your systems?

A small health care provider such as a physician office or clinic often will contract with an IT services vendor to meet overall IT needs to operate the business. A small health care provider may not have the resources and expertise to understand the technical support that an IT services vendor provides, and it relies … Continue Reading

Looking back at the HIPAA resolution agreements in 2016

In 2016, Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the enforcement arm for HIPAA, continued robust enforcement efforts. There were 12 reported resolution agreements (RA) in 2016. An RA is a settlement agreement between HHS and a covered entity (or business associate) where the entity agrees to the payment of a resolution … Continue Reading

OCR Issues Alert Regarding Phishing Email Disguised as Official OCR Audit Communication

11/30/2016 Update: Today OCR issued another alert relating to the phishing email campaign and has shared that the phishing email originates from the email address OSOCRAudit@hhs-gov.us and directs individuals to a URL at http://www.hhs-gov.us. This is a subtle difference from the official email address for OCR’s HIPAA audit program, OSOCRAudit@hhs.gov. Covered entities and business associates … Continue Reading

Cloud Service Providers Beware, You May Be Subject to HIPAA Without Knowing It

The use of cloud service providers has exploded in the past several years. According to estimates from Gartner, the market for cloud services is expected to reach $204 billion in 2016. But the use of cloud service providers raises significant privacy and security concerns, especially for health care providers who are subject to the Health … Continue Reading

A Closer Look at the OCR’s Guidance on Ransomware

In the wake of several high-profile ransomware infections targeting hospitals and health care organizations, the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued guidance on the growing threat of ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that denies access to systems and data. It uses strong cryptography to encrypt files … Continue Reading

OCR to Increase Efforts to Investigate Breaches Affecting Fewer Than 500 Individuals

The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the federal agency tasked with investigating data breaches involving protected health information (PHI) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The mere mention of an OCR investigation can strike fear into the hearts of HIPAA privacy officers and health care … Continue Reading

Business Associates in the Crosshairs: Catholic Health Care Services Settles for $650,000 for Failure to Safeguard PHI

Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CHCS) recently agreed to enter into a $650,000 resolution agreement and a two-year corrective action plan (CAP) with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). CHCS provides management and information technology services as a business associate to six nursing homes. The OCR settlement follows a finding that … Continue Reading
LexBlog