Health Law Alert: SPECIAL FOCUS: WHITE COLLAR: State Enforcement Action for HIPAA Violations Set to Increase


Massachusetts Hospital Settles Improper Record Disposal Accusations as OCR Makes Public Its State AG Training Materials

After two boxes of un-encrypted backup tapes were lost in shipment (and following a two-year investigation by the Attorney General of Massachusetts) South Shore Hospital (SSH) in Massachusetts has agreed to a settlement of $750,000 for failure to adequately safeguard patient health information under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and state consumer protection laws. SSH's settlement, much like the federal Office of Civil Rights' (OCR's) “Resolution Agreements” also requires broad and ongoing compliance and thirdparty auditing activities likely to result in substantial additional costs. The state's action could be seen as emblematic of a new rise of state, rather than federal, enforcement action against both providers and their business associates. State attorneys general, thanks to changes made by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, are learning to wield newfound authority to bring lucrative civil actions based on violations of federal HIPAA requirements and state consumer protection and privacy laws.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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