On May 31, 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would allow individuals to obtain an “access report” from HIPAA covered entities reporting virtually every instance of access to their electronic protected health information (ePHI), including all access by individual employees. The proposed access report must reflect the full name of every person or entity that accessed an individual’s ePHI (if maintained in a designated record set) in the prior three years. An express purpose of this proposal is to allow individuals to identify situations in which a member of a covered entity’s workforce inappropriately accessed their ePHI. Individuals can then file a complaint with the OCR claiming improper employee access to ePHI. In a recent case, the OCR entered into a $865,000 settlement with the University of California at Los Angeles Health Systems (UCLAHS) after investigating celebrity complaints of potential inappropriate ePHI access by UCLAHS employees. The investigation led to OCR allegations that UCLAHS employees repeatedly accessed ePHI of many patients, including several celebrity patients, when they did not have any job-related need to access the data, and that UCLAHS failed to implement security controls to reduce the risk of impermissible access, failed to provide Security Rule training, and failed to apply appropriate sanctions against workforce members who violated UCLAHS policies and procedures.
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