HIPAA pain: How to cope
As information technology pervades every aspect of healthcare, complying with federal regulations on patient privacy and security is becoming an even bigger issue. More often than not, it's human error and process mistakes--not the technology itself--that have caused the biggest HIPAA violations. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services began listing health data breaches affecting 500 or more individuals on www.hhs.gov. As of late August, 306 HIPAA violations were listed on HHS's "Hall of Shame" site, most of them involving stolen or lost computers, USB drives, or documents, not hacking or snooping. In one of the largest penalties so far since the revised HIPAA rules were signed into law under the HITECH Act in 2009, Massachusetts General Hospital in February was fined $1 million to settle what HHS called "potential HIPAA violations" related to the loss of paper documents listing names, appointments, and other information for 192 patients of Mass General's infectious disease outpatient practice. A Mass General employee commuting to work left the documents on a train.
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