The settlement with the physician practice follows an extensive investigation by the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules.
The incident giving rise to OCR’s investigation was a report that the physician practice was posting clinical and surgical appointments for its patients on an Internet-based calendar that was publicly accessible. On further investigation, OCR found that Phoenix Cardiac Surgery had implemented few policies and procedures to comply with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, and had limited safeguards in place to protect patients’ electronic protected health information (ePHI).
“This case is significant because it highlights a multi-year, continuing failure on the part of this provider to comply with the requirements of the Privacy and Security Rules,” said Leon Rodriguez, director of OCR. “We hope that health care providers pay careful attention to this resolution agreement and understand that the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules have been in place for many years, and OCR expects full compliance no matter the size of a covered entity.”
OCR’s investigation also revealed the following issues:
- Phoenix Cardiac Surgery failed to implement adequate policies and procedures to appropriately safeguard patient information;
- Phoenix Cardiac Surgery failed to document that it trained any employees on its policies and procedures on the Privacy and Security Rules;
- Phoenix Cardiac Surgery failed to identify a security official and conduct a risk analysis; and
- Phoenix Cardiac Surgery failed to obtain business associate agreements with Internet-based email and calendar services where the provision of the service included storage of and access to its ePHI.
Individuals who believe that a covered entity has violated their (or someone else’s) health information privacy rights or committed another violation of the HIPAA Privacy or Security Rule may file a complaint with OCR at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/complaints/index.html.
The HHS Resolution Agreement can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/enforcement/examples/pcsurgery_agreement.pdf
Additional information about OCR’s enforcement activities can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/enforcement/examples/index.html
###Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/newsr
MIAOULIS NOTE: Interesting that this is a fine against a physician practice. Also important to remember that in addition to the fine, the organization will not have a remediation plan to complete.