HIPAA Fines assessed to small practices

We find this difficult to talk about especially during these trying times. However, we feel it is important for all practices to know that HIPAA violations and fines have not disappeared during this pandemic.

Investigations take a long time and many practices think since they have not heard of small practices being fined that they are immune. Unfortunately, that is not true. Fines are smaller, but even the “small” fines hurt small practices. Could you afford $25K or $50K in fines?

The latest fine of $25K for ongoing HIPAA violations could have been more but the statute of limitations is 6 years. It was reported that they had failed to implement security rule policies and procedures, failed to provide their employees with security awareness and training, and they failed to conduct a thorough assessment of potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the ePHI they held.

To read the full resolution agreement click here:

https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/metro-signed-agreement.pdf

We understand that after you conduct the HIPAA risk analysis, the hard work begins. Implementing your HIPAA policies and procedures and documenting your risk management plan are difficult and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete this task. This is a MUST. If you do not have the time, then you need to hire someone or a company to do this for you.

If you would like more information, contact us at 877.659.2467 or complete the contact us form.

 

“Simplifying HIPAA through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Do you have all of your HIPAA training documented?

 

What do you know about HIPAA enforcement?HIPAA Doctor EKG
Just imagine you were investigated by CMS or the OCR, what would they find?
How confident are you in your medical and/or HIPAA documentation?
Do you have the appropriate documentation to protect your organization?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is very serious about ensuring your organization is educating employees on patient rights and securing PHI. During a recent investigation in Florida an organization was fined $100K for each year they could not produce documented HIPAA training. The first year they only had 3 employees! They were fined for five years, $500K. Once you are under investigation, they review ALL of your documentation, not just what they originally requested. You do not want to end up being in the willful and wanton neglect category. This is where the big fines are calculated.

If you have a patient complaint or suffer a data breach, the best advice is to document, document, AND document! OH, did I mention… DOCUMENT? Next, cooperation. If they ask for something, give it to them. Nothing more, nothing less, but give them what they ask for. Show the OCR you are trying to do the right thing. After all, how would you like it if the information that was compromised was yours? Wouldn’t you want the organization to do what they could to stop the breach or prevent another one from happening?

Remember the MD Anderson in Texas fines? They had multiple devices lost containing unencrypted ePHI. They claimed that they were not obligated to encrypt its devices, and stated that the ePHI that was involved was for “research,” and thus was not subject to the HIPAA non-disclosure requirements. They challenged the OCR and the Judge ruled in favor of the OCR and MD anderson was ordered to pay $4,348,000 in civil money penalties. The quote from OCR Director Roger Severino: “OCR is serious about protecting health information privacy and will pursue litigation, if necessary, to hold entities responsible for HIPAA violations”.

At the NIST/OCR conference in Washington DC, the director along with other members of the OCR staff reminded organizations about enforcement. This is NOT going away. Patient information is extremely valuable to criminals. The days of just a slap on the wrist because you didn’t conduct risk assessment, conduct HIPAA training, or you can’t prove your HIPAA compliance is over. Every organization that has anything to do with patient information must get on board and understand HIPAA. There is NO certificate to prove you are HIPAA compliant, the proof is in your documentation. So I ask one more time… How well do you trust your HIPAA documentation?

 

Cost of cyber attacks on healthcare are steadily rising

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

HIPAA medical hacker

Why are so many medical offices being attacked? Simple, this is a one stop shop for everything needed for identity theft and many medical practices do not have appropriate safeguards in place. Business associates have even been the target or the entry point. HIPAA requires certain security safeguards to be in place to ensure the safety and security of Protected Health Information (PHI).

There have been 188 data breaches of 500 or more patient records in the first 6 months of this year, and in April alone there were 42. Thirteen of the 188 have already been resolved. https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf
These breaches include small medical practices, business associates, and hospitals. Small and large. Paper and electronic. No one is immune. Many organizations think they are too small to get hit, but the fact is the most common problem is untrained staff that unknowingly cause this to happen. Education is the key to avoiding this catastrophe from destroying your reputation. Of course you still need to certain technical safeguards in place, but even then it only takes one click of a mouse to bring your network down.

Here are some areas to consider:

  1. How would you process a data breach?
  2. How would you handle the reputation management of the breach?
  3. How would you pay for the cost of breach and the investigations?

Having a breach notification plan in place before a breach occurs is critical to reducing the damage. You must have processing in place to shut the system down, continue manually, and report to the appropriate authorities.

Consider the lack of trust from your patients since their information was compromised from your office. No matter if it was your fault or that of a business associate this could have a negative impact on your patient database.

Breaches are costly on many fronts, the first being the cost of the notification of the patients, investigations, downtime, and the mitigation of the source of the breach. In 2013 the Ponemon Institute reported that a data breach cost $233 per medical record, now in the 2018 the report states a healthcare breach can cost on average $408 per medical record.
https://www.ibm.com/security/data-breach

Keep in mind if you do not know which records were breached then everyone must be included in the notification process. What could turn out to be the most costly is the fines and penalties associated with the breach. Depending on how and when you processed the breach is one determining factor. Also once the investigation is complete, if it is discovered this was an ongoing problem and was not mitigated, then you could be found in willful and wanton neglect. This is NOT a place you want to find yourself! The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) can also fine you for not conducting a thorough enough risk analysis thus leaving vulnerabilities untouched. How well do you trust your efforts in securing your data? Have you conducted a risk assessment to determine if what you have in place is sufficient?

How can Aris help?

  • First of all we conduct a thorough risk analysis that uncovers vulnerabilities and create a risk management plan so that you can mitigate those risks.
  • Since written documentation is also part of HIPAA compliance, we provide the necessary privacy and security policies, procedures, and documentation needed for state and federal regulatory requirements.
  • We also offer HIPAA training that includes privacy and security and any custom requests.
  • If you are one of the many organizations that simply do not have the time to implement your HIPAA program, we can do that for you as well. Month to month, no long term contracts!

If you would like a free HIPAA checkup call 877.659.2467 or complete the contact us form.

“Simplifying HIPAA  through Partnership, Education, and Support”

Workstation Security

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

HIPAA keyboard chain with lock

HIPAA Compliance is more than just about a patient’s right to access their information. Although the HIPAA Privacy Rule is how most of this began, it is so much more now! The HIPAA Security Rule outlines administrative safeguards, physical, and technical security. Most organizations are so busy trying to figure out how to protect themselves from the unknown (technical concerns) that they forget about the actual physical security. We are not just talking about building security systems, but how you secure the individual devices that are utilized within your facility and those who travel with portable devices.

Here are some helpful ideas to review with your particular situation:

  1. Although utilizing a security system that has motion sensors is better than nothing, using security cameras usually discourages theft.
  2. Conduct a walk through of your facility and create an inventory list of all devices that access or store ePHI. Knowing what you have, where it is located, and if it contains ePHI is essential in securing your data. This includes portable devices and small electronic media. Remember, printers, copiers, and scanners can store data as well.
  3. Review the location of all devices that access or store ePHI. Ensure they are not located in an area that could be easily accessed by an unauthorized person or utilize cable locks. If screens are viewable and cannot be relocated, the use of privacy screens are highly recommended. Encryption is recommended on any device that contains ePHI. If the devices are transported they should be encrypted even if they do not contain ePHI. If they are ever lost or stolen and the encryption is engaged, it would not be a reportable breach.
  4. If your USB drives are not used, locks should be installed. This is an inexpensive method to protect the network. If your workstations utilize CD/DVD drives, these should be disabled as well. Another option would be to configure this through a Microsoft Group Policy.
  5. Make sure paper PHI is not left in areas that could be accessed by another as well. This includes where you store your excess paper charts. These areas should be locked when not in use. It is also recommended to utilize signage instructing “Employees Only”.
  6. Employees can be your biggest asset or your largest liability. Training your employees on computer security is an ongoing process. Annual HIPAA training should include the HIPAA privacy rule and HIPAA security rule. Also, add monthly security reminders to keep HIPAA fresh in their minds. Continuing education is the key to safety.
  7. HIPAA Policies and procedures are the backbone of an organization. Properly trained employees know and understand what is required and needed. The data that a health care provider has in its possession is priceless. This data must be secure physically and technically. All of this is necessary to avoid a data breach.

If an organization fails to secure patient information the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will open an investigation and the organization can end up with massive fines. These fines have ranged from $250K to $3.5M. Although the fines are based on the organization’s ability to pay, the days of receiving just a $50K fine seems to be over. Best practices would be to review your HIPAA risk analysis and make sure it is thorough. Some online risk assessments unfortunately do not uncover all of your vulnerabilities. The OCR could consider this as willful neglect even though you didn’t know. Make sure you update your risk management plan and mitigate those vulnerabilities. Small oversights could cost you a fortune.

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Data call 877.659.2467.

“Simplifying HIPAA through Partnership, Education, and Support”

How well do you trust your compliance efforts?

 

By Aris Medical Solutions

compliance board game

HIPAA encompasses many aspects. Risk assessments, risk management, and your policies, procedures, documentation are the backbone of compliance.

Most medical providers don’t think about compliance until they are audited. By that time it is too late to mitigate any issues that you may have. The main misconception is that “it will never happen to me”.

A random audit is possible but relatively a low probability. A compliance audit is typically initiated by a disgruntled employee, a patient that feels their privacy has been violated, or a data breach. Once the HIPAA violation is reported then the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will determine if the complaint will need to be investigated. If it does, depending on the documentation that you provide, will determine whether or not a desk audit will be issued. This is where your policies and procedures are critical. If your employees understand what they need to do, how to do, and what needs to be documented, your chances of a desk audit is greatly reduced. The OCR understands that people make mistakes, but if you don’t learn from them, they will fine you heavily!

Note to self… if you recognize a problem, address it, correct it, and learn from it.

You can survive a audit with proper documentation!

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

“Protecting Organizations through Partnership, Education, and Support”

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.

©2021 Aris Medical Solutions – HIPAA Risk Management | HIPAA Compliance Consultants | All Rights Reserved | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy
The content and images on this website is owned by Aris Medical Solutions and their owners. Do not copy any content or images without our consent.
Powered by Bandwise LLC