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HIPAA, HITECH and Health Information Technology Blog

William Maruca, Michael Kline and Elizabeth Litten maintain a blog that provides information regarding current legal and practical issues that health care providers and business must consider with regard to the exchange of health information, including the use of electronic health records (EHR). The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Security Rule requirements are among the legal standards with which there must be compliance when utilizing EHR, as well as sharing and exchanging health information in general. This blog also considers possible solutions to maneuver the legal and other barriers to establishing an EHR system and infrastructures for the beneficial exchange of health information.

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Recent Blog Posts

  • The President Can Tweet, But Can a Doctor Text? Text messaging is a convenient way for busy doctors to communicate, but for years, the question has remained: are doctors allowed to convey sensitive health information with other members of their provider team over SMS? The answer is now “yes,” thanks to a memo published last week by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).   The memo clarifies that “texting patient information among members of the health care team is permissible... More
  • New HIPAA Guidance on Disclosure of PHI Related to Opioid Abuse and Mental Health In our most recent post, the Top 5 Common HIPAA Mistakes to Avoid in 2018, we noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has recently published guidance on disclosing protected health information (PHI) related to overdose victims. OCR published this and other guidance within the last two months in response to the Opioid Crisis gripping the nation and confusion regarding when and to whom PHI of patient’s suffering from addiction or mental... More
  • Top 5 Common HIPAA Mistakes to Avoid in 2018 Heading into its 22nd year, HIPAA continues to be misunderstood and misapplied by many, including health care industry professionals who strive for (or at least claim the mantle of) HIPAA compliance. Here is my “top 5” list of the most frequent, and most frustrating, HIPAA misperceptions seen during 2017: “If I’m using or disclosing protected health information (PHI) for health care operations purposes, I don’t need a Business Associate Agreement.” Yes, HIPAA allows PHI to be used or disclosed for treatment, payment and... More
  • Florida Supreme Court Rules That Privacy Continues After Death On November 9, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in the case of Emma Gayle Weaver, etc. v. Stephen C. Myers, M.D., et al., that the right to privacy under the Florida Constitution does not end upon an individual’s death. Fox partner and HIPAA Privacy & Security Officer Elizabeth Litten recently reacted to the decision in an article in Data Guidance. She noted the decision’s compatibility with HIPAA regulations concerning the protected health information of a deceased patient. She also discussed... More
  • “Getting Receipts” – The Millennial Disconnect Between Short-Term Social Media Posts and HIPAA Long gone are the days when social media consisted solely of Myspace and Facebook, accessible only by logging in through a desktop computer at home or personal laptop. With every single social media platform readily available on personal cellular devices, HIPAA violations through social media outlets are becoming a frequent problem for healthcare providers and individual employees alike. In fact, social media platforms like Snapchat® and Instagram® that offer users the opportunity to post “stories” or send their friends temporary... More
  • Equifax Breach Checker – Curiosity May Have a Cost (But it’s Refundable) Individuals who have received notice of a HIPAA breach are often offered free credit monitoring services for some period of time, particularly if the protected health information involved included social security numbers.  I have not (yet) received such a notice, but was concerned when I learned about the massive Equifax breach (see here to view a post on this topic on our Privacy Compliance and Data Security blog). The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page sums it up well: If you have... More
  • Electronic Health Records and HIPAA Security: A Design Problem Fixable With Blockchain Technology?   In some respects, HIPAA has had a design problem from its inception. HIPAA is well known today as the federal law that requires protection of individually identifiable health information (and, though lesser-known, individual access to health information), but privacy and security were practically after-thoughts when HIPAA was enacted back in 1996. HIPAA (the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) was originally described as an act: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve portability and continuity of health insurance... More
  • Ten Tips for Actions by a Covered Entity after a HIPAA Breach by a Business Associate   This blog recently discussed tips for a covered entity (CE) in dealing with a HIPAA business associate (BA). Now, even though you have adopted all of the tips and more, in this dangerous and ever more complex data security world, one of your BAs suffers a breach and it becomes your responsibility as the victim CE to respond. What should you do? Our partner Elizabeth Litten and I discussed aspects of this issue with our good friend Marla Durben Hirsch who... More
  • Washington State Passes Law Restricting Commercial Collection, Storage and Use of Biometric Data On July 23, 2017, Washington State will become the third state (after Illinois and Texas) to statutorily restrict the collection, storage and use of biometric data for commercial purposes. The law focuses on “biometric identifiers,” which it defines as “data generated by automatic measurements of an individual’s biological characteristics, such as a fingerprint, voiceprint, eye retinas, irises, or other unique biological patterns or characteristics that is used to identify a specific individual.” Notably for our readers, the law excludes all photos,... More
  • 6 Takeaways from Memorial Hermann HIPAA Settlement: Press Releases Lead to $2.4 Million Payout Post Contributed by Matthew J. Redding. On April 26, 2017, Memorial Hermann Health System (“MHHS”) agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) $2.4 million to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule. The underlying incident occurred in September of 2015, when a patient presented a falsified Texas driver’s license to MHHS’ staff upon appearing for the patient’s scheduled appointment. MHHS’ staff contacted law enforcement to verify the patient’s identification, and... More