Noncompliance of HIPAA Security Rules Has Huge Consequences

HIPAA security rulesThe noncompliance of HIPAA security rules has had huge consequences for an IT and health information management company.

CHSPSC LLC, (“CHSPSC”) has agreed to pay over $2 million to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the breach of Protected Health Information (PHI). The Business Associate was notified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that it had traced a cyber-hacking group’s advanced persistent threat into CHSPSC’s information system.

After OCR ‘s investigation, it was found that CHSPSC had “longstanding, systemic noncompliance with the HIPAA Security Rule including failure to conduct a risk analysis, and failures to implement information system activity review, security incident procedures, and access controls.” The large health system provided various Business Associate services, including IT and health information management, to hospitals and physician clinics. These violations could have easily been avoided! OCR Director Roger Severino said, “The healthcare industry is a known target for hackers and cyber-thieves. The failure to implement the security protections required by the HIPAA Rules, especially after being notified by the FBI of a potential breach, is inexcusable.”

 

In addition to the monetary penalty, the Business Associate will be required to complete a “robust” Corrective Action Plan (CAP) with monitoring activity for at least the next two years. CHSPSC will also be required to do the following:

Implement technical policies and procedures to allow access only to those persons or software programs that have been granted access rights to information systems maintained
Implement procedures to regularly review records of information system activity, such as audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports
Conduct accurate and thorough assessments of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI

All this shows that ANYONE can face HUGE penalties, and they would most likely bankrupt a small billing company or an independent physician practice.

 

So, based on this specific example, it is VERY important to understand that every complaint or potential breach must be investigated by HHS/OCR. If you, a billing company, or other vendor, suspect a breach, you must inform the covered entity (your client) and have a breach risk assessment completed to determine key factors and take action.

Keep in mind, a Business Associate is a ‘person’ or ‘entity’. This means that ALL billing companies—large or small—need to comply with the Federal HIPAA security rules and regulations. So, if your company has not completed an accurate and thorough security risk assessment, there is a possibility that you could be penalized under ‘willful neglect’. (This category alone gas a fine of $50,000 per violation!)

 

So then, what can be done to ensure this doesn’t happen to my billing company or my organization? Well, one of EZClaim’s partners, Live Compliance, can make determining your compliance requirements extremely simple:

Completely online, Life Compliance’s role-based courses make training easy for remote or in-office employees
Contact-free, accurate Security Risk Assessments are conducted remotely. All devices are thoroughly analyzed regardless of location.
Policies and procedures are curated to fit your organization, ensuring employees are updated on all workstation use and security safeguards in or out of the office. Update is in real time.
Electronic, prepared document sending and signing to employees and business associates

 

So, don’t risk your company’s future, especially when Life Compliance is offering a FREE Organization Assessment to help determine your company’s status. Either call Life Compliance at 980.999.1585, visit LiveCompliance.com to schedule an assessment, or e-mail Jim Johnson.

[ Article contributed by Jim Johnson of Live Compliance ]

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ABOUT EZCLAIM:
EZClaim is a medical billing and scheduling software company that provides a best-in-class product, with correspondingly exceptional service and support, and can help improve medical billing revenues. To learn more, visit their website, e-mail them at sales@ezclaim.com, or call a representative today at 877.650.0904.

Failing to Implement HIPAA Causes Large Fine

Failing to ImplementFailing to implement HIPAA causes a large fine for a small town North Carolina health services provider. They were fined $25,000 for multiple, easily avoidable, HIPAA violations for “longstanding, systemic noncompliance” with the HIPAA Security Rule. [Note: The provider is a part of a health center which offers discounted medical services to the underserved population in rural NC, and the fines were reduced in consideration of this, but it still resulted in a significant monetary loss].

In 2011, Metropolitan Community Health Services (Metro), doing business as Agape Health Services, filed a breach report regarding “the impermissible disclosure of protected health information to an unknown email account.” The breach affected over 1,200 patients!

In addition to the large monetary penalty, the practice is required to develop and adopt a corrective action plan (which includes two years of thorough monitoring) after the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) discovered that Metro failed to conduct a thorough and comprehensive HIPAA Security Risk Assessment and Analysis. In addition, Metro did not implement a single HIPAA Security Rule Policy and Procedure for the health center. Possibly worst of all, Metro failed to provide workforce members with HIPAA Privacy and Security Awareness training until 2016!

Patients must trust who they share their personal, private, and protected health information with. A breach such as this, is obviously devastating for the patient, in addition to their doctor’s reputation. So, how can physicians ensure that they are meeting the HIPAA requirements and have proper safeguards in place to avoid this sort of breach?

First off, an accurate and thorough Security Risk Assessment and Analysis must be conducted to expose and target any potential administrative, physical, and technical vulnerabilities. Doing so  highlights any major flaws in a practice’s administrative and technical safeguards, and accentuates the policies and procedures that the practice needs to implement.

In addition to that, the designated HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer must ensure that ALL employees complete HIPAA Workforce training. All employees of the practice, including the physicians, must take HIPAA training to ensure employees have a clear understanding of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and actionable policies and procedures.

So, remember, healthcare organizations and their vendors have a responsibility to be HIPAA compliant, and that starts by performing, updating, or reviewing an accurate and thorough Security Risk Assessment covering your technical, administrative, and physical safeguards. This will help uncover any vulnerabilities, and help you understand what information is being transmitted, shared, and how it is being transmitted.

 

TAKE AWAYS AND THINGS TO CONSIDER:

  • Complete a Security Risk Assessment and establish a Corrective Action Plan that is accurate and thorough.
 Remediate any potential risks or vulnerabilities.
  • A Security Risk Assessment will target vulnerabilities related to what is potentially exposing Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • Develop actionable policies and procedures that clearly outline disclosures of PHI
  • Ensure all employees have a clear understanding of the HIPAA Privacy rule and its policies and procedures

 

Live Compliance provides everything you need to become and maintain your organization’s HIPAA compliance requirements. All policies and procedures can be edited and shared directly with staff from your staff portal. Trainings are delivered and monitored within your portal, can be customized, role-based, and be accessed anytime and from anywhere. You can also easily send and monitor HIPAA training with one click.

Failing to implement HIPAA can cause tremendous problems and use precious resources and time to implement. Live Compliance makes it 10X easier than trying to do it on your own.

So, take advantage of Live Compliance’s FREE Organization Needs Assessment to understand your immediate compliance needs. For additional details, e-mail Jim Johnson (at jim@livecompliance.com), call (980) 999-1585, or visit their website at livecompliance.com/oa

Live Compliance is a partner of EZClaim, a medical billing software company. For more details about their solutions, visit their website at ezclaim.com.

[ Written by Jim Johnson, President of Live Compliance ]

Small Practice Fined $100,000 for Risk Analysis Breach!

Risk Analysis Breach Can Cost Physicians Dearly!An independent physician gastroenterology practice in Utah had to report a breach related to a dispute with a Business Associate to the Office for Civil Rights department of HHS.

After the investigation into the breach, it was determined that the practice of Steven A. Porter, MD “had failed to complete an accurate and thorough risk analysis, and failed to implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level” and therefore, has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.

In addition to the monetary penalty, the practice is required to implement a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). According to the investigation resolution agreement, the practice agreed to conduct a thorough Risk Analysis, the Practice must develop a complete inventory of all its categories of electronic equipment, data systems, and applications that contain or store ePHI, which will then be incorporated into its Risk Analysis, and must complete a Risk Management plan. They must also revise and implement actionable policies and procedures, all of which should have been in place prior to the breach incident.

Have you ever read such headlines and doubted whether a small Billing Company or independent physician practice actually ever face penalties?

According to the Resolution Agreement, the practice must also completely reinvent their Business Associate process, and implement a strict protocol to ensure it’s Business Associates are HIPAA Compliant. In addition to ensuring their Business Associate relationships are accurate, the entire staff must undergo security and privacy training that stresses the use of Business Associate services and applications, disclosures to Business Associates that require a Business Associates agreement or other reasonable assurances in place to ensure that the Business Associate will and can safeguard the PHI and/or the ePHI. This puts immense pressure on the Business Associates, such as Billing Companies, to ensure that they are HIPAA Compliant, but also independent physician practices to ensure their Business Associates, “down the chain” are also compliant. This is also known as gaining Satisfactory Assurance of vendor HIPAA compliance.

What can you do?

As we have stressed before, it is important for you to understand that every complaint or potential breach must be investigated by HHS/OCR. If you, a billing company, or other vendor, suspects a breach you must inform the covered entity (your client) and have a breach risk assessment completed to determine key factors and take action. Keep in mind, a business associate is a ‘person’ or ‘entity’. This means there is no Billing Company too small or too large to comply with the Federal HIPAA regulations. Again, if you haven’t completed an accurate and thorough security risk assessment prior to that, you could also be penalized under ‘willful neglect’. This category alone is $50,000 per violation!

What we do is keep this from ever being a worry for you! In fact, we have a 100% audit pass rate! For example, Live Compliance has easy to understand HIPAA breach notification training. We perform your security risk assessment and manage all your requirements, including business associates, in a clean, organized cloud-based portal. Don’t risk your company’s future, especially when we are offering a FREE Organization Assessment to help determine your company’s status. It’s easy, call us at (980) 999-1585, email me jim@LiveCompliance.com or visit LiveCompliance.com

[ Contributed by Jim Johnson, President of Live Compliance ].