Archives: HIPAA and Health Information

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OCR Warns Health Care Industry of Risks with Previous Employees

In its November newsletter, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) made a great point that we are seeing in the industry—the risks associated with previous employees. According to its newsletter, entitled “Insider Threats and Termination Procedures,” the OCR states “Data breaches caused by current and former workforce members are a recurring issue across many industries, … Continue Reading

Henry Ford Health System Notifies 18,000+ Patients of Health Data Breach

On December 6, 2017, Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) disclosed that health information of 18,470 patients may have been viewed or stolen. HFHS became aware of the incident on October 3, 2017 after employee credentials were accessed or stolen. According to a statement published on HFHS’ website, Social Security numbers and credit card information were … Continue Reading

OCR Clarifies Privacy Rule for Sharing PHI on Opioid Overdoses

In the wake of the national opioid overdose crisis, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has provided clarification on when covered entities are permitted to disclose patient information during opioid emergencies. The OCR commented that some health care providers believe that they must have the patient’s consent in order to share information with family members … Continue Reading

CMS Addresses Lingering Uncertainties and Raises Others via MACRA Information Blocking Guidance

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued guidance intended to help clinicians eligible for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) navigate an attestation required thereunder concerning the prevention of information blocking. MIPS was implemented via CMS’s Quality Payments Program final rule with comment period released in 2016, and represents one avenue for … Continue Reading

At least 473,074 Individuals’ Health Care Records Breached in September 2017

Unfortunately, September was another banner month for data breaches involving the health care industry. According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website, 39 data breaches involving over 500 records were reported to the OCR in the month of September. This does not include all records breached, as health care entities have until February 2018 … Continue Reading

Open Enrollment for 2018: Don’t Forget about HIPAA!

With open enrollment in full swing for many employers, now is a good time to review employee benefit communications. Plan sponsors of health plans are generally responsible for properly administering all of the health plan notices required by law, including HIPAA. To ease the administrative burden and to cut costs, these notices can, and often … Continue Reading

Second Largest Business Associate Breach in 2017

Cornerstone Business & Management Solutions, a medical supply company located in Nebraska, has notified 21,856 individuals and the Office for Civil Rights that while performing a routine review of system logs, it discovered a suspicious account on its server downloading personal information of patients using its medical devices, including names, addresses, dates of birth, and … Continue Reading

Privacy Tip #107 – Medical Marijuana Privacy

As more and more state laws allow the use of marijuana for medical conditions, and dispensaries are opening to provide users with access to marijuana for medical purposes (and recreational use), patients are questioning and becoming concerned about the protection of their privacy when purchasing marijuana in dispensaries. The concern is that federal law still … Continue Reading

HHS Issues Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions Post-Hurricane Harvey

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used its authority to waive certain provisions of HIPAA in response to Hurricane Harvey. HHS previously declared a public health emergency in Texas and Louisiana related to the hurricane and its aftermath. Under the waiver, HHS waives sanctions against covered hospitals that do not comply … Continue Reading

OCR Releases “Improved Web Tool” for Breach Reporting

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently issued an “improved web tool that puts important information into the hands of individuals, empowering them to better identify recent breaches of health information and learn how all breaches of health information are investigated and successfully resolved.” The tool, called “The HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool (HBRT) allows individuals … Continue Reading

Unencrypted Backup Drive of 531 EEG Patients Lost

Baptist Medical Center South, located in Jacksonville, Florida has admitted that one of its backup drives has been missing since May 18, 2017. The unencrypted backup drive contained the protected health information of 531 patients who underwent an EEG at the facility between 2015 and 2017. It has not been recovered to date. The backup … Continue Reading

NJ Gov. Chris Christie Seeks to Ease HIPAA Restrictions in Cases of Opioid Overdose

Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters that he is in talks with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice about easing HIPAA restrictions in situations where individuals have experienced an opioid overdose. Gov. Christie chairs the presidential commission on opioid abuse. Speaking to … Continue Reading

Medicaid Documents Thrown in Dumpster

The North Dakota Department of Human Services has admitted that one of its employees threw Medicaid claim resolution worksheets into a dumpster instead of disposing them in a secure onsite shredding receptacle. The result? The documents were found in the dumpster by a citizen who notified the Department, which then notified almost 2,500 patients of … Continue Reading

Privacy Tip #92 – Finally, HHS Is Removing SSNs from Medicare Cards

For those of you who know me, you know that I have been very frustrated with the federal and state governments for continuing to use Social Security numbers for eligibility, enrollment and participating in Medicare and Medicaid. This includes listing individuals’ Social Security numbers on the Medicare and Medicaid cards. The good news is that … Continue Reading

“Fireball” Malware a Threat to Health Care Industry

A new report released by Check Point has security personnel working in the health care industry particularly concerned and they are warning their colleagues about the existence of “Fireball.” Fireball, released by a Chinese operation, has infected approximately 250 million computers worldwide. According to the report, the malware hijacks web browsers and turns computers into … Continue Reading

HHS Releases Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force Report

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its “Report on Improving Cybersecurity in the Health Care Industry,” which is the culmination of a year-long effort on behalf of the Cybersecurity Task Force, made up of industry professionals from the public and private sectors to identify and develop recommendations “on the growing … Continue Reading

OCR Issues Reminder on Security Incidents

Following the frequent and varied ransomware attacks on health care entities over the past few years, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published guidance last summer to the health care industry reminding it that a ransomware attack could be a reportable breach under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. Despite the fact that many health care … Continue Reading

OCR Settles With Texas Health System for $2.4 Million for Disclosing PHI to Media In a Press Release

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a press release today announcing that it has settled alleged HIPAA violations with Memorial Hermann Health System (MHHS) for $2.4 million. According to the Resolution Agreement it has inked with the OCR, MHHS must also implement a corrective action plan, including updating its policies and procedures, training staff … Continue Reading

HIPAA Refresher for Workplace Wellness Programs

Now more than ever, workplace wellness programs are becoming increasingly popular among employers. A common concern many employers have is how to design a meaningful workplace program intended to improve the health of participating employees while complying with HIPAA’s privacy and security rules. Although employers are not covered entities, HIPAA may apply to an employer’s … Continue Reading

OCR Levies Hefty Fine Against FQHC

Showing no signs of letting up on enforcement actions, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) late last week settled an investigation against Metro Community Provider Network MCPN, a Colorado based federally qualified health center, for alleged HIPAA violations. The fine, a whopping $400,000 for the center, which provides health care services to low income patients, … Continue Reading

ABCD Pediatrics Victim of Ransomware

ABCD Pediatrics, located in San Antonio, Texas has notified the Office for Civil Rights that a ransomware cyber intrusion has resulted in access to its servers, including the protected health information (PHI) of its patients. The ransomware used by the attackers was Dharma. The practice found through forensic analysis that access had been gained to … Continue Reading
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