Protected Health Information Office of Civil Rights

News & Analysis as of

Health Care Group News: OCR Releases New Clarifying Guidance In Response To Orlando Pulse Nightclub Attack

In an emergency, when there is a flurry of activity in a hospital, covered entities often struggle with who they are permitted to release patient information to under HIPAA. On January 11, 2017, the Department of Health and...more

Failure to Timely Notify Results in Enforcement Action and Significant Settlement

For the first time, on January 9, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (HHS/OCR) settled a HIPAA enforcement action based on the untimely reporting of a breach of unsecured protected...more

Breach of Privacy Prompts Breach of Etiquette: DHHS Sets New Precedent in Privacy Breach Enforcement

On January 9, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) took action against a health system for non-timely reporting of a breach of protected health information. It was the first...more

Time is of the Essence When Reporting a Breach of PHI

The failure to timely report a breach of unsecured protected health information (PHI) has cost Presence Health (one of the largest health systems in Illinois) almost half of a million dollars. Earlier this month,...more

Three-Month Delay Means Health Network Must Pay

A delay in reporting a HIPAA violation can result in a significant monetary penalty. That was the message sent by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which recently announced the first HIPAA settlement based on the untimely...more

Looking Back at the HIPAA Resolution Agreements in 2016

In 2016, Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the enforcement arm for HIPAA, continued robust enforcement efforts. There were 12 reported resolution agreements (RA) in 2016. An RA is a settlement...more

November the Worst Month Yet for Healthcare Breaches

We have repeatedly reiterated numerous warnings to the healthcare industry about malware and ransomware [see related posts here and here]. Our predictions have unfortunately become true, as November was the worst month ever...more

21st Century Cures Act - HIPAA & Other Privacy Considerations

On December 13, 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act (the Cures Act) into law. The Cures Act addresses a wide range of healthcare topics including clinical research, treatment of mental health and substance...more

ONC and OCR Issue Joint Fact Sheet on Use of PHI for Public Health Activities

Whenever fact sheets or other guidance is issued by either the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), it helps gain insight into the thinking of the...more

HHS OCR Levies Significant HIPAA Penalties in a Series of Recent Settlements: Covered Entities and Business Associates Alike...

Between June and November 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (HHS OCR) has announced seven high-dollar settlements to resolve alleged violations of the HIPAA privacy, security, and breach...more

UMass Amherst Settles HIPAA Violations with OCR for $650,000

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced that the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) has agreed to settle an investigation against it as a result of a malware infection for $650,000, along with implementing a...more

HHS Issues Warning About Phishing Campaign Disguised As Official Communication

As part of its efforts to assess compliance with the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) engages in audits of covered...more

OCR Alerts Listservs About Fake Phishing Email to Covered Entities and Business Associates

On November 28, 2016, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued an Alert to its listservs that a phishing email is being circulated on “mock HHS Departmental letterhead under the signature of OCR”s Director, Jocelyn Samuels”...more

OCR Examines Hybrid Entity Designation in Latest HIPAA Settlement

On November 22, 2016, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) agreed to pay $650,000 and enter into a corrective action plan to settle allegations that it violated the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules in connection...more

Beware of Phishing Email Disguised as Official OCR Audit Communication

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has posted an alert (and a follow-up alert) warning health plans, health care providers, and their vendors of a mock communication...more

HIPAA Settlement Emphasizes Importance of Accurate Hybrid Entity Designations

On November 22, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), announced that University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMA) agreed to settle allegations relating to the HIPAA Privacy...more

More on HIPAA Audits for 2016 and 2017–Desk Audits and On-Site Audits

As part of the ongoing HHS OCR HIPAA audit initiative, it is conducting “HIPAA desk audits.” These audits don’t involve auditors coming in your facility. Instead, covered entities are being asked to submit documents on...more

OCR Stresses Importance of Authentication in Newsletter

In a recent newsletter, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) encourages health care organizations to review their procedures around authentication and “ensure that they have the appropriate safeguards in place.”...more

HIPAA Audits – Phase 2: On-Site Audits Scheduled for First Quarter of 2017

Covered Entities and Business Associates may be ringing in the New Year with the prospect of responding to on-site HIPAA audits by federal regulators. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights...more

Cloud Service Providers Beware, You May Be Subject to HIPAA Without Knowing It

The use of cloud service providers has exploded in the past several years. According to estimates from Gartner, the market for cloud services is expected to reach $204 billion in 2016. But the use of cloud service providers...more

HHS Designates Cloud Service Providers as Business Associates Under HIPAA

Cloud service providers that process electronic protected health information (ePHI) are business associates under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), even if the PHI is encrypted and the...more

Confusing Joint Guidance published by OCR and FTC on HIPAA Authorization Forms

There are arguments that there is a dearth of guidance by both the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), so when guidance comes out, we listen. But the most recent guidance jointly issued by the...more

Recent HIPAA Settlements Highlight Importance Of Business Associate Agreements

Two related healthcare companies were forced to pay settlements with the federal government totaling over $500,000 over allegations relating to a data breach involving patient health information. Much of the negative...more

OCR Explains How Information Blocking Violates HIPAA

The US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights recently posted guidance clarifying that a business associate such as an information technology vendor generally may not block or terminate access by a...more

Five Highlights from OCR Guidance On HIPAA Compliance In Cloud Computing

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has issued guidelines for HIPAA-covered entities that utilize cloud computing in processing electronic protected health information (ePHI). The...more

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