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Government Mandates Could Cost Employers Huge Penalties
Date:12/30/2012

audit. This is a strong reminder for businesses to revisit their compliance programs.

The HHS’s Federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has stepped up HIPAA audits of “covered entities” that are subject to HIPAA. OCR has now begun levying significant monetary penalties for violations of HIPAA’s privacy rule. In practice, OCR is not interested in small fines; it has levied penalties in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars for what appeared at first glance to be small issues, according to Ezold. The lesson here is that you should assume you are not a “covered entity” – you must ensure that you are not covered or, if you are covered, that you have met your obligations.

“If OCR comes knocking, you may be able to avoid significant liability by showing that you have engaged in a good faith attempt to meet your obligations,” says Ezold.

To protect yourself, hold an annual internal review to ensure that the privacy requirements are being met. OCR will not consider a once-and-done review to be sufficient; annual reviews provide better protection than merely doing an initial assessment. Ezold recommends:

  •     Designate a HIPAA compliance officer.
  •     Create privacy and security policies that comply with HIPAA and HITECH.
  •     Determine which employees have access to PHI.
  •     Limit access to PHI both operationally and in policy to those employees who “need to know.”
  •     Review physical and encryption security for PHI.
  •     Schedule annual reviews of policies, operations and regulations.
  •     Create annual risk analyses and security plans.
  •     Have policies in place regarding breaches of PHI security.
  •     Schedule annual computer network
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