OCR’s Publicly Disclosed Large Breaches Now Top 20 Million Impacted Individuals

May 16, 2012.  The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) HIPAA/HITECH Act privacy and security enforcement arm, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is responsible under the HITECH Act to publicly disclose privacy and security breaches that affect 500 or more individuals on its Breach Notification Web site.  With the now reported Utah Department of Health hacking/IT incident breach occurring in the period March 10-April 2, 2012 and affecting a reported 780,000 individuals, the total number in 435 breaches reported since September 22, 2009, now totals 20,079,189 impacted individuals.  Of the total number of breaches where location of breached information is known (e.g., electronic or hard copy source), 72% of…

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ONC Issues Meaningful Use Guide for Privacy & Security Attestation Compliance

May 9, 2012.  The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued a Guide to Privacy and Security of Health Information (Version 1.1 022312).  This Guide is targeted to medical practitioners who participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Program for Adoption and Meaningful Use of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology. Chapters are: 1. What Is Privacy & Security and Why Does It Matter? 2. Privacy & Security and Meaningful Use. 3.  Privacy & Security Step Plan for Meaningful Use. 4.  Integrating Privacy and Security into Your Practice. 5.  Privacy and Security Resources. The Guide highlights two of the Stage 1 Meaningful Use Objectives and Corresponding Measures…

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OCR Penalizes Physician Practice for HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule Violations

April 18, 2012.  Late last week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) executed a Resolution Agreement and included Corrective Action Plan (Appendix A) as a settlement for violations of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules by a physician practice, Phoenix Cardiac Surgery, P.C., of Phoenix and Prescott, AZ. In its April 17, 2012, News Release, HHS stated: “The incident giving rise to OCR’s investigation was a report that the physician practice was posting clinical and surgical appointments for its patients on an Internet-based calendar that was publicly accessible. On further investigation, OCR found that Phoenix Cardiac Surgery had implemented few policies and…

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Finally, HIPAA/HITECH Act Privacy, Security, Breach Notification, Enforcement Final Rules at OMB

March 24, 2012.   Today, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Executive Office of the President showed that it had received the much-delayed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Final Rules entitled:  Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement, and Breach Notification Rules (RIN:  0945-AA03). Following review by OMB, the rules will be published in the Federal Register, most likely in April if OMB’s review is timely. The Abstract of the Rules reads:  “The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights will issue final rules to modify the HIPAA Privacy, Security,…

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BCBST Pays $1.5 Million to HHS to Settle Potential HIPAA Privacy and Security Violations

On March 13, 2012, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBST) agreed to a payment of $1.5 million to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to a corrective action plan as part of a Resolution Agreement with HHS for potential violation of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rule violations.  According to a HHS Press Release of the same date, “the enforcement action [by HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR)] is the first resulting from a breach report required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act Breach Notification Rule.” According to the HHS Press Release: “The investigation followed…

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ONC Publishes Stage 2 EHR Technology Certification Criteria NPRM

On March 7, 2012, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published in the Federal Register its notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) entitled Health Information Technology:  Standards, Implementation Specifications, and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Record [EHR] Technology, 2014 Edition; Revisions to the Permanent Certification Program for Health Information Technology [pp. 13832-13885].  Comments to HHS may be made until 5 PM on May 7, 2012. The summary of the NPRM is included here: “Under section 3004 of the Public Health Service Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is proposing to revise the initial set…

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CMS Publishes Stage 2 Meaningful Use Incentive Program NPRM

On March 7, 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published in the Federal Register its 132-page notice of proposed rule making (NPRM):  Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program–Stage 2.  Comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may be made until 5 PM on May 7, 2012. The summary of the NPRM is included here: “This proposed rule would specify the Stage 2 criteria that eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must meet in order to qualify for Medicare and/or Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive payments.  In addition, it would specify payment adjustments under Medicare for covered…

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OCR Announces November 2011 Start of Privacy and Security Compliance Audits

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for privacy and security enforcement under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provisions. OCR has announced that it is initiating compliance audits beginning this month, as authorized by the HITECH Act.  This action precedes the imminent release of the Final HIPAA/HITECH Act Privacy, Security, Breach Notification, and Enforcement Rules, expected before the end of 2011, and will strengthen enforcement and accountability for compliance with existing and forthcoming Rule modifications.   To avoid the consequences of potential penalties for non-compliance, covered entities and business…

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HITECH Act Breached Individuals Skyrocket in Latest OCR Web Site Posting

Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, covered entities are required to report to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) any privacy or security breach affecting 500 or more individuals within 60 days of discovery of the breach by the covered entity or its business associate.  The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is responsible for privacy and security enforcement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and HITECH Act provisions that strengthened privacy and security enforcement, is required to post those breaches…

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HHS Extends Life of Temporary EHR Technology Certification Program

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a notice in the Thursday, November 3, 2011, Federal Register that extends the life of the “temporary certification program for health information technology” beyond its expected sunset date of December 31, 2011, to at least summer 2012.  “We believe that the sunset of the temporary certification programs [ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ATCBs)] should be tied to the effective date of the final rule that we intend to issue in summer 2012, which is expected to adopt new and revised standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for EHR technology in…

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