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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

  • 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
  • Your Business Associates Hold Your HIPAA Compliance Future in Their Hands: Eleven Things You Can Do Our partner Elizabeth Litten and I were recently featured again by our good friend Marla Durben Hirsch in her article in the April 2017 issue of Medical Practice Compliance Alert entitled “Business associates who farm out work create more risks for your patients’ PHI.” Full text can be found in the April, 2017 issue, but a synopsis is below. In her article Marla cautioned, “Fully one-third of the settlements inked in 2016 with OCR [the Office of Civil Rights of the... More
  • Where’s Your Wallet? The Ongoing Saga of FTC v. LabMD (Part 2 of 2) It was the wallet comment in the response brief filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that prompted me to write this post. In its February 9, 2017 filing, the FTC argues that the likelihood of harm to individuals (patients who used LabMD’s laboratory testing services) whose information was exposed by LabMD roughly a decade ago is high because the “file was exposed to millions of users who easily could... More
  • Charges for Copies of Medical Records may Violate HIPAA, Despite Compliance with State Law A patient requests a copy of her medical record, and the hospital charges the per-page amount permitted under state law. Does this violate HIPAA? It may. In the spring of 2016, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that enforces HIPAA, issued a new guidance document on individuals’ right to access their health information under HIPAA (“Access Guidance”).   The Access Guidance reminds covered entities that state laws that provide individuals with... More
  • Will the New Administration Trump Efforts to Forecast 2017 Healthcare Trends? As she has done in January for several years, our good friend Marla Durben Hirsch quoted my partner Elizabeth Litten and me in Medical Practice Compliance Alert in her article entitled “MIPS, OSHA, other compliance trends likely to affect you in 2017.” For her article, Marla asked various health law professionals to make predictions on diverse healthcare matters including HIPAA and enforcement activities. Full text can be found in the January 2017 issue, but excerpts are included below. Marla also wrote... More
  • From the Wild West to Westworld and (Maybe) Back to Normal – the Ongoing Saga of LabMD (Part 1 of 2) It was nearly three years ago that I first blogged about the Federal Trade Commission’s “Wild West” data breach enforcement action brought against now-defunct medical testing company LabMD.   Back then, I was simply astounded that a federal agency (the FTC) with seemingly broad and vague standards pertaining generally to “unfair” practices of a business entity would belligerently gallop onto the scene and allege non-compliance by a company specifically subject by statute to regulation by another federal agency. The other agency,... More
  • 21st Century Cure for a “Broken” Mental Health System Includes HIPAA Clarification U.S. Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) has been a vocal advocate for mental health reform for a number of years.  Part of his crusade is driven by his concern that the HIPAA privacy rule “routinely interferes with the timely and continuous flow of health information between health care providers, patients, and families, thereby impeding patient care, and in some cases, public safety.”  Congressman Murphy’s efforts have resulted in the inclusion in the recently-passed 21st Century Cures Act of a provision entitled... More
  • Foreshadowing HIPAA Under the New Administration: Will Transparency Trump Privacy? It may not come as a surprise that Congressman Tom Price, MD (R-GA), a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act who introduced legislation to replace it last spring, was selected to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Trump administration. What may come as a bit of a surprise is how Price’s proposed replacement bill appears to favor transparency over individual privacy when it comes to certain health care claim information. Section... More
  • Bubble Guppies and PHI: Tips for Telecommuting Policies Federal enforcement agencies are increasingly focusing on HIPAA breaches which involve mishandling of PHI by telecommuters.  Two recent cases illustrate the liability exposure resulting from inadequate oversight of staff working remotely. Medical equipment supplier Lincare was fined $239,800 as a result of a breach which occurred when an employee left unprotected PHI in a car in the possession of her estranged husband.  An Administrative Law Judge upheld the penalty, noting that Lincare did not have policies in place requiring employees to... More