U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announces First HIPAA Breach Settlement Involving Fewer than 500 Patients

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On January 2, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") settled its first case involving the unauthorized disclosure of the electronic protected health information ("ePHI") of fewer than 500 individuals. In a resolution agreement signed on December 17, 2012, Hospice of North Idaho ("HONI") agreed to pay HHS $50,000 to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA") Security Rule.

The HHS Office of Civil Rights began investigating HONI after an unencrypted laptop computer containing ePHI of 441 patients was stolen in June 2010. Through its investigation, HHS discovered that HONI had not conducted a risk analysis ofits ePHI, and did not have necessary policies or procedures in place to address mobile device security, all of which isrequired by the HIPAA Security Rule.

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