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Phillip Long
Phillip Long
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Second Largest HIPAA Fine to date is $5.5 Million!

Second Largest HIPAA Fine to date is $5.5 Million!

According to a recent article on tripwire.com, on February 16, 2017, the Office of Civil Rights has issued a cumbersome fine for failure to comply with audit procedures. Memorial Healthcare System, who was fined an astounding $5.5 million, failed to meet the terms by disregarding of review, modification, and even the termination of users’ access. 

 

By avoiding these terms with, what could have been, avoidable HIPAA violations, more than 100,000 patients had their records impermissibly disclosed!  

MHS settled their agreement with a substantial corrective action plan and landed the second largest fine to any entity. The largest fine was came just a few months ago in August 2016 at a whopping $5.55 million! 

What you should know about MHS

4th largest public healthcare system in the United States of America
Participant in OHCA (Organized Health Care Arrangement) with a network of physicians’ offices

What is OHCA? 

The Organized Health Care Arrangement allows covered entities from affiliated offices to access EHR records. This arrangement allows cross serving for patients where employees of the physician’s office to access a patients record from another office in the network. This type of arrangement was designed to improve patient care through access. 

As a participant in OHCA, entities are require to conform to their HIPAA based requirements. 

What happened at MHS that you need to know?

MHS submitted a breach report in 2012 regarding two employees who wrongfully accessed patient records. Three months after the initial breach report, MHS reported an additional 12 users also accessed the patient ePHI (electronic Protected Health Information).

Ultimately, MHS failed to follow their own polices to deactivate login credentials of former employees at the affiliated physicians offices. The same credentials were used for a year gaining access to the data over and over again. 

This inexcusable and inappropriate access resulted in federal criminal charges from the pertinent patient information being sold as well as fraudulent tax returns.    

The Settlement

This particular case is the first forceful enforcement action against a company for failing to terminate user access controls. This case showed a pattern of complete disregard for monitoring and auditing user access. There were risk analysis reporting this very issue over the course of five years reporting this very issue. 
This large settlement certainly sets a tone for others who must comply with HIPAA’s compliance program. MHS could have easily avoided these risks by implementing and auditing the already established policies and procedures, terminating user controls on a routine basis and verifying they no longer have access, and conform to the risk analysis. 

Contact Veritas to consult and identify what measures you may be missing. 



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