Do HIPAA Fines go away when a practice or business closes?

By Aris Medical Solutions

HIPAA Medical practice closed

Many medical practices and business associates have the misconception that if they are fined they can simply close their doors and not be obligated to pay the fines or penalties. We have been asked if this will work many times. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has answered this haunting question.

Three years ago the OCR received an anonymous complaint against Filefax, Inc. that transported 2,150 patient files to be shredded. These files were left in an unlocked truck in their parking lot, or by granting permission to an unauthorized person to remove the files from Filefax, and leaving the Protected Health Information (PHI) unsecured outside the Filefax facility.

Although Filefax shut their doors during the course of the OCR’s investigation they were still obligated under the law. In 2016, a court in unrelated litigation appointed a receiver to liquidate its assets. In addition to a $100,000 monetary settlement, the receiver has agreed, on behalf of Filefax, to properly store and dispose of remaining medical records found at Filefax’s facility in compliance with HIPAA.

The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found on the OCR website at: http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/Filefax/index.html.

The first step in protecting your practice or business is to conduct a thorough security risk assessment and identify vulnerabilities and workflow. From there you can develop a risk management plan to ensure you document your compliance efforts and mitigate risks.

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Updating your Contingency Plan

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

HIPAA Disaster

Contingency Planning is more than just a power outage or how to backup and restore your data. A complete plan should include different types of scenarios that could happen in your area.

For those involved in Healthcare, creating a contingency plan is not optional.  Should you have a disaster and are not prepared you can be fined! The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) considers protecting personal information a civil right and they will enforce this if you have a data breach or a situation where your data is not recoverable.

Think about ransomware, have you included this in your contingency plan?

Depending where you are located, have you included how to respond to a hurricane, tornado, snowstorm, or fire?

Where is your data located and what would happen if you had a toilet overflow or a pipe burst?

In light of the recent tragedies have you included a section on workplace violence?

How to create a Contingency plan:

  1. Conduct a thorough HIPAA Risk Assessment. Understand and analyze what type of risks you are vulnerable to. This includes where you are located and what type of computer network that you utilize.
  2. Create a diagram of how your network is configured. This will help you to determine the best method to protect and restore your data from a backup.
  3. Implement a risk management plan that outlines what you have in place and what you will need in the future if it is not possible at the moment. Of course, you will need a timeline if you will be adding to your plan.

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Self Reporting – Should you do it?

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

If you have a minor breach (under 500 records) you are required to self report this breach within 60 days after the end of the calendar year in which the disclosure occurred. If you report it, you run the risk of being investigated. So many times I hear organizations say… why would I “report” myself, that would be insane! If you do not report it and it is discovered at a later date, the fines will be increased and they will investigate heavily to determine if you have concealed any other breaches. So, the answer is YES; you should self report.

Understand that the different agencies like the Office for Civil RIghts (OCR) who enforces HIPAA, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) more than likely communicate with each other. If you are audited or investigated by one agency, they are looking at your organization as a whole and may report their findings to other agencies. In one scenario that we recently were made aware of the organization was expecting an investigation from the Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice showed up! These agencies can decide how and what to investigate based on the information they have received.

The best way to protect your organization is to make sure you have a complete and thorough risk analysis. This will uncover potential vulnerabilities and give you the opportunity to mitigate them BEFORE something happens. Next, make sure you have a risk management plan that dates/documents what you have implemented/corrected based on your risk analysis. Policies, procedures, and documentation are the foundation of all organizations. Your employees need clear and concise procedures so they understand what they need to do. This always insulates you from misunderstanding. Above all, it demonstrates your compliance efforts!

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Cyber Security – how to prepare!

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

Cyber attacks are on the rise in healthcare, and are one of the leading cause of data breaches. Disgruntled employees are another and patients that believe their information has been compromised round out the top three. Although nothing is 100% secure, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent nearly all of these attacks.

First and foremost prepare and plan for a breach. Implement a Breach Notification plan. Understand the difference between an internal and external breach. Make sure you have your security team in place!

Too many practices think they can ignore the possible threat because they use a cloud based EHR. Most hacks and unauthorized access are caused internally due to an employee that is uneducated in security. Employees that use their work computers to access personal email or use their work email for personal use expose the practice to this uncertainty. This could potentially allow viruses and malware into your network. It only takes one person to surf the web and pick up keylogging malware or click on an email attachment or link and bring your entire organization to a halt. Best practices to share security information with your staff at least monthly. Continual education of the possible threats are necessary. You can never be TOO diligent in the area of security!

Make sure you use a Termination Checklist to remind you of all of the access points that must be removed should an employee leave. This is a huge oversight that we see a lot of when we are conducting network security audits. Employees leave and some of their login credentials are removed but not all of them.

Last but certainly not least; if you have a patient that complains about their privacy being violated, take it seriously and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Make sure you document the process.

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

USB flash drives are a huge risk in healthcare!

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

So… you find a flash drive and you want to be a good Samaritan and return it to its rightful owner. Great idea, right? Criminals know this and they use it against us! They want our data!

Malware and viruses can be installed on a flash drive. When you open it and find there isn’t any real information to tell you who it belongs to, so you think “nothing” happened. Malicious code can be developed to do most anything today. It can immediately take over your system or it can lay in wait. Infecting and worming it’s way into your files and creating havoc and you not even know it until it is too late.

Best practices:

  1. Never, EVER, insert a flash drive into your computer that you do not know where it came from.
  2. Never insert a flash drive that was used in a home environment, home computers have a 73% chance of having some type of malware.
  3. Never accept a flash drive that someone has used on their computer on a public Wi-Fi.
  4. If you find a flash drive, ask around, or post on a bulletin board.
  5. If you notice a flash drive in one of your computers that doesn’t belong there, report it to your HIPAA Security Officer immediately.

Be informed, be alert, and be diligent!

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Websites – is your data secure?

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

Many healthcare providers have websites, since in today’s digital age nearly everyone searches for goods and services before making a decision, this includes healthcare. However, healthcare providers must ensure their websites are HIPAA compliant if any patient data is transferred or accepted.

Many vendors are targeting healthcare with promises of ease of use, added patient interactions, and the ability to gain more patients. Before you agree to accept patient information through your website, you must ensure the vendor or service you are going to use actually understands HIPAA and the requirements.

Here are some issues to consider:

  1. Do patients complete forms on your website? If yes, your website must be secure by utilizing encryption during transmission. This also includes if you are using appointment scheduling through your website. If your site starts with “https” then the data is securely transmitted. However, your site may require updates to ensure the encryption is up to date. If you have a “contact us” and they can send an email to you and your site is not encrypted you should post a message advising them not to send any personal information.
  2. Who has access to your website? If you work with a third party, they too must be HIPAA compliant and understand how to protect your website. If possible add a two-step authentication to prevent unauthorized access. Make sure you have administrative access to your site as well.
  3. Do you know how and where your data is stored? You must utilize a company that understands HIPAA and security if your website accepts or stores any patient data. If your site is not set up properly, Google can actually index your intake forms. If your web hosting company shares your web server with other clients, this too must be reviewed. Keep in mind, if your data (including your backups) is encrypted, it would not be a reportable breach but you still must have a HIPAA compliant business associate agreement in place.
  4. Do you have a recent backup of your website? This may sound crazy because it’s “in the cloud”. Keep in mind, a cloud is just a term used to explain it is NOT on your physical location. It is located on a server somewhere on someone’s physical site.
  5. Do you know how to properly destroy old data? Whether the data is stored on a web server, an old external hard drive, or computer, all data must be removed in a HIPAA compliant manner. This could be a physical destruction or sanitized so that the data cannot retrieved. Don’t forget to document this process!

 

Websites are a necessity today. If you decide to add features like online forms and/or patient scheduling, only do so if properly setup and secured.

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Practice call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

File sharing and cloud computing, is it permitted under HIPAA?

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

With all of the new technology that we have access to, many vendors are targeting healthcare with promises of ease of use and the ability to communicate with other healthcare providers. Before you agree to “share” or open your “portal” you must ensure the vendor or service you are going to use actually understands HIPAA and the requirements.

File sharing and cloud computing are here to stay. As we move forward with sharing patient data amongst our peers, you will need to be vigilant with your security.

Here are a few things to review:

  1. Network misconfigurations are very common, review your data flow, including how data is transmitted and stored.
  2. Backup your data!
  3. When access is given to an employee, contractor, or vendor, once the need for access is no longer required, terminate their access credentials immediately.
  4. Although most providers do not think hackers are a problem for them, they are! Your network security is vital and you must use a trained professional to set up your network and your file sharing configuration. If your IT professional does not specialize in network security, then hire a network security auditor to conduct a vulnerability scan after you have implemented your systems. A good vendor will mitigate your risks as they scan your network.
  5. Make sure you have a HIPAA compliant business associate agreement in place.
  6. Review the service agreement. Make sure it includes specific business expectations.
  7. Invest in cyber liability insurance.

File sharing and cloud computing are wonderful tools that can be used in healthcare if setup properly and securely.

 

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Practice call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

How to protect yourself from Ransomware

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

This is actually easier said than done. However, there are some simple tips you can use to help guard yourself against this cyber warfare.

First of all let’s discuss what is Ransomware and why are these criminals doing this?
Ransomware is when an invader takes over your computer and encrypts your data and will not release it until you pay a “ransom”. Simply put, they do this to make money and, since it is a lucrative business, we do not see it going away anytime soon. With healthcare being such a popular target, you must be vigilant at all times.

Next, there are malicious malware and viruses that are used just want to be mean. Although I am not a fan of bumper stickers, I do like the one that says “Mean People Suck”. These criminals are the meanest of the mean. They don’t even give you the opportunity to pay a ransom. They just encrypt your data or delete it. I could go on and on explaining how all of this works, but instead let’s just talk about how to prevent this from happening in the first place!

Rule #1
Read the email carefully. More than likely you can spot misspelled words or subtle clues that the email is not authentic. Look closely at the email address. At a quick glance it may look like a legitimate email address. It will start with a prefix other than the original address and may even include a period (.) in a separate place. I have said this many times…rather than clicking on links or attachments in your email, open your browser and go to that particular website instead.

Rule #2
Again, do not EVER click on an attachment in an email that claims to have important information that you must act on immediately. For example:

  1. FedEx (UPS, USPS) was not able to deliver your package
  2. Your friend liked your post on Facebook, click to read more (some of these are true but it is best to open your browser and go to Facebook)
  3. A message about your credit card or bank account.
    There are many variations to these emails. Just exercise caution when opening your mail even from people you know. Their email account may have been hacked and being used to distribute the virus.

Rule #3
Keep a backup of any and all data that you want or need. Once the backup is created, disconnect it from your computer or network. If your system is ever violated, your backup will not be affected. Then you can wipe your system clean and restore your data.

Having a good anti-virus and anti-malware installed on your system are a necessity today, but it still only takes one click of a mouse to bring your network down because the software developers have to identify the problem before they can send out an update. Criminals are creating hundreds if not thousands of new viruses daily! Continual education for you and your staff is a must!

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Practice call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Have you “Googled” yourself lately?

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

Modern technology is both amazing and scary! Do you know what is being said about you or your organization? In today’s world we must keep up with what is being said on the World Wide Web (WWW) to make sure what the world sees and reads is not Fake News! It also helps you to uncover any broken links to your website that may frustrate potential new patients from actually finding you.

It is a proven fact that before a person buys nearly anything, they “Google” it. This includes finding services as well as looking for a new physician. Do you want to increase your patient visits? Are you being found? Is the information that is out there correct? We suggest searching for your name, practice name, address, and phone numbers to see what is listed. Also check the websites that rate physicians.

Do you have any social media sites? Did you know that someone else can create one for you? These are called “unofficial” sites in Facebook. Patients could be checking in and writing negative comments about your practice and you may not even know about it. That is why it is so important to keep an watchful eye! However, be very careful how you respond. Patients have the right to tell the world about themselves but healthcare providers do not!

Before you venture into any marketing campaigns, make sure you are not violating any privacy laws. If you decide to hire a marketing company or reputation management service; insist on a company that is well versed in the medical arena. Special HIPAA regulations are required in marketing and we have heard some practices being charged with HIPAA violations due to their service provider. Also, remember to check your state laws as well!

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Practice call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Phishing Scams are hitting everyone!

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

 

Nearly everyone has received a phishing email at one time or another. It seems like every time a celebrity makes the news, scammers are sending emails, and creating fake sites to steal your information. They prey on our interests and they know that many people are interested in learning what “really” happened. Remember the old saying “curiosity killed the cat”, well this may not kill you but it could make your life miserable and cost you a lot of money! They can install malware on your computer and depending on the type of malware, it could also do some very nasty things!

Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Never use work computers to surf the web, especially do not go to websites that you are unfamiliar with. If you do not follow the policies and procedures of your organization, YOU personally could be held liable for any breaches or theft of information.
  2. Never click on links in an email offering “important” or requires an “urgent” response. Instead open your browser and go to the website you are familiar with.
  3. Never click on email attachments that offer “important” or “urgent” information.
  4. Never click on links within social media.
  5. Make sure you have enterprise versions of anti-virus and anti-malware software and they are up to date.
  6. Implement a two step process before authorizing any exchange of money and anywhere it is offered.
  7. Continual education!

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

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