Device theft continues to be the major cause of HIPAA violations, government agency reports

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Long-term care providers should keep close tabs on laptops and other equipment, because device theft is still the leading cause of information breaches, according to a recently released government report.

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, healthcare providers must tell the government whenever the protected health information of at least 500 individuals is compromised. Each year, device theft accounts for nearly half of these cases, according to a June 11 Congressional report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.

In both 2011 and 2012, the OCR received about 200 notifications of data breaches affecting more than 500 people, the report showed.

Despite the increasing use of electronic records, paper records still were involved in nearly a third of large breaches in 2011, the OCR noted.

Healthcare providers' business associates also fall under HIPAA and were involved in some of the largest breaches, including a 2011 incident affecting nearly 5 million people, according to the report.

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