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HIPAA Update: $150k Penalty Levied for Failure to Have Required Policies and Procedures in Place

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigated the Adult & Pediatric Dermatology, P.C., of Concord, Mass., (APDerm) after receiving a report that an unencrypted thumb drive containing the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of approximately 2,200 individuals was stolen from a vehicle of one its staff members. The thumb drive was never recovered.  

As is often the case, the investigation by the OCR found more than one violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy,  Security, and Breach Notification Rules.  It was determined that APDerm had failed to:

  • conduct an accurate and thorough analysis of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality of ePHI as part of its security management process
  • fully comply with requirements of the Breach Notification Rule to have in place written policies and procedures and train workforce members.

APDerm has agreed to settle potential violations of HIPAA, and pay $150,000 in fines. APDerm will also implement a corrective action plan to correct deficiencies in its HIPAA compliance program.   This case is the first settlement with a covered entity for failing to have policies and procedures in place to address the breach notification provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, passed as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

In addition to a $150,000, AP Derm will be required to develop a risk analysis and risk management plan to address and mitigate any security risks and vulnerabilities, as well as to provide an implementation report to OCR.

To learn more about nondiscrimination and health information privacy laws, civil rights and privacy rights in health care and human service settings, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit the Office for Civil Rights. 

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