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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

  • 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
  • The Blindfolded Business Associate: New HHS Guidance on HIPAA & Cloud Computing According to the latest HIPAA-related guidance (Guidance) published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a cloud service provider (CSP) maintaining a client’s protected health information (PHI) is a business associate even when the CSP can’t access or view the PHI. In other words, even where the PHI is encrypted and the CSP lacks the decryption key, the CSP is a business associate because it maintains the PHI and, therefore, has HIPAA-related obligations with respect to the... More
  • Six Tips for a Small Business to Avoid HIPAA Security Breach Headaches Last week, I blogged about a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announcement on its push to investigate smaller breaches (those involving fewer than 500 individuals).   The week before that, my partner and fellow blogger Michael Kline wrote about OCR’s guidance on responding to cybersecurity incidents.  Today, TechRepublic Staff Writer Alison DeNisco addresses how a small or medium sized business (MSB) can deal with the heightened threat of OCR investigations or lawsuits emanating... More
  • Small HIPAA Breaches, Big HIPAA Headaches What you might have thought was not a big breach (or a big deal in terms of HIPAA compliance), might end up being a big headache for covered entities and business associates. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to try to find out what “smaller” breaches your competitors are reporting (admittedly not an easy task, since the “Wall of Shame” only details breaches affecting the protected health information (PHI) of 500 or more individuals). Subscribers to the U.S. Department of... More
  • Eight Tips to Confront the New Initiative by HHS on PHI Security In a recent Guidance, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“OCR”) appears to have attempted to reverse an impression that its emphasis is more on privacy of protected health information (“PHI”) than on security of PHI. Its July 2016 article draws attention to the need by covered entities and business associates for equal attention to PHI security. Relative to this OCR initiative, our partner Elizabeth Litten and I were recently featured again by our good... More