$125,000 for Talking to a Reporter? HIPAA & HITECH Act Blog by Jonathan P. Tomes

After the last three technically orientated blog posts on the medical Internet of Things (“mIoT”), perhaps it’s time to remember that there is a higher probability for a HIPAA violation consisting of an improper disclosure than there is of a hacker targeting your patients’ pacemakers, for example. The Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has entered into a $125,000 settlement in lieu of a civil money penalty (“CMP”) with a Hartford, Connecticut, allergy practice for an impermissible disclosure of protected health information (“PHI”) to a television reporter.

A patient had complained to the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), alleging that Allergy Associates of Hartford had impermissibly disclosed her PHI to a TV reporter. The patient had previously contacted a local TV station after she had been turned away from the allergy practice because of her service animal. The TV reporter subsequently contacted the practice seeking comment. A physician at the practice spoke to the reporter and disclosed some of the patient’s PHI without her authorization or any authority for the disclosure under the Privacy Rule, such as the authorized disclosure for PHI that is in a facility directory, 5 C.F.R. § 164.510(a).

The practice’s Privacy Officer had previously told the doctor to ignore the reporter’s request for comment or to simply say, “No comment.” The doctor, however, ignored the guidance, spoke with the reporter, and disclosed some of the patient’s PHI. After OCR had contacted Allergy Associates about the privacy breach, Allergy Associates compounded the breach by failing to apply appropriate sanctions against the doctor.

Alice here: Yes, once again, I am here to try to sell things to keep you and us in business. If you need help with your risk analysis, either initially or for an update, Jon Tomes has written a Risk Analysis ToolKit to provide the structure and tools to help you complete the requirement under HIPAA. You and your risk analysis team can fill it out and document your decisions as to what is reasonable and appropriate for you to adopt in the way of policies and procedures and be done with it. Or you could send your completed risk analysis to Jon to review and render his professional opinion as the country’s leading HIPAA expert (IMHO) as to whether it is sufficient to keep you from getting that free trip to Leavenworth or that very expensive trip to the bank. If you have Jon’s Compliance Guide to HIPAA and the DHHS Regulations, 6th edition, with the accompanying HIPAA Documents Resources Center CD, also 6th edition, you can find the Risk Analysis ToolKit on the CD. It is also available with a review by Jon at https://www.veteranspress.com/product/hipaa-risk-analysis-toolkit. Also, Jon Tomes presented a webinar earlier this month on “How to Do a HIPAA and HITECH Risk Analysis.” You can buy a recording of it at https://www.complianceiq.com/trainings/LiveWebinar/2255/how-to-do-a-hipaa-and-hitech-risk-analysis. Jon is also writing a Risk Analysis Update ToolKit, which will be available for you in the near future on our Premium Member section of our website. Please stay tuned for our announcement when it is up and running for you there. It will include the mIoT.

If you need guidance on how to draft the policies and procedures that your risk analysis or your newly updated risk analysis has shown are reasonable and appropriate for your organization, Jon has also written The Complete HIPAA Policies and Procedures Guide, with the accompanying CD of several dozen HIPAA policies and procedures templates for you to adapt to your situation.

Make sure that you train your entire workforce on HIPAA in general and on the HIPAA policies and procedures according to who needs to know what to perform their duties for you. If you need handy HIPAA training in general, consider Jon’s training video and training manual in either of two forms available here: https://www.veteranspress.com/product/basic-hipaa-training-video-dvd-workbook or https://www.veteranspress.com/product/online-hipaa-training-video-certification. Or you could hire Jon to present HIPAA training onsite to your workforce. Just contact him at jon@veteranspress.com or 816-527-3858.

Keep your written documentation of all of these HIPAA compliance efforts where you can find them easily and quickly if DHHS shows up demanding your HIPAA compliance documentation. We recommend keeping all of it in Your Happy HIPAA Book. Jon included tabs in the three-ring binder for everything that you need to document and a checklist for each tab. I recommend adding the date that you check off each item in each checklist.

If you have had a security incident that you were unsure as to what exactly to do about, or if you are concerned that you may have one, consider reading Jon’s book How to Handle HIPAA and HITECH Act Breaches, Complaints, and Investigations: Everything You Need to Know.

As always, thanks for reading Jon’s blog, buying his books and other HIPAA compliance tools, attending our seminars and webinars, and hiring Jon for HIPAA consulting and training. We wish you every success with your HIPAA compliance efforts.

On December 13th, 2018, posted in: HIPAA Compliance Blog by Tags: , , , ,
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