Health Law Blog: County Government Settles Alleged HIPAA Violations

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A small county in Washington has agreed to pay $215,000 to settle allegations that it violated HIPAA by failing to secure electronic protected health information. Skagit County maintained protected health information (“PHI”) of individuals served by its Public Health Department. For a period of approximately two weeks in 2011, these individuals’ electronic PHI was accessible on the County’s public web server. According to the Department of Human Services, the County failed to implement security policies and procedures to prevent security violations and ensure compliance with the HIPAA security regulations. Additionally, HHS alleged the County failed to notify individuals that their PHI had been breached. This settlement is another important reminder that health care providers, including local public health departments, must have policies and procedures in place to comply with the HIPAA security regulations, including providing security awareness training to its workforce members. More information on the Skagit County settlement is available here.

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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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