HHS issues first-ever HIPAA fine to small organization, for portable device data breach

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Experts: Push EHR progress even if feds won't help pay
Experts: Push EHR progress even if feds won't help pay

The importance of security and strategies for the use of portable technology for small health organizations came to the forefront last week when the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged it will receive a $50,000 settlement from an Idaho organization. The agreement came after allegations the group lost a laptop with health information for 441 patients.

The action is the first for a breach of protected health information for fewer than 500 individuals under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule. The not-for-profit Hospice of North Idaho reported to the HHS Office for Civil Rights that an unencrypted laptop with patient information was stolen in June 2010.

OCR fined the hospice because it did not conduct a security risk analysis or have policies or procedures to address portable device security. The HIPAA regulation is meant to safeguard electronic patient health information.

Also, the hospice did not implement security measures to address the loss of patient health data or manage that risk. A federal official said that covered entities, regardless of size, must take action and will be held accountable for safeguarding patients' health information.

Since the incident, the Hayden-based Hospice of North Idaho has improved its HIPAA compliance program and entered a two-year corrective action plan as part of the settlement. The corrective action plan between OCR and the Hospice of North Idaho can be found here.

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