February 27, 2012

Prioritize Protecting Patient Records after HIPAA Breaches

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My report in last week's RAC Alert included an error that Maryland was not included in the Feb. 13 knee orthosis bundling issue was incorrect. Maryland is included in that issue. Thanks to a loyal Monitor Monday listener who brought that to my attention.

Recent breaches of patient information should prompt your organization to examine its practices for protecting patient records.

Patient information from five of St. Joseph Health System's 14 hospitals became available through Internet searches, according to news reports. The information of 31,800 patients included patient name, body mass index, blood pressure, lab results, smoking status, diagnoses, medication allergies, advance directive status and demographic information, stated a report on the website of St. Jude Medical Center, one of the five hospitals.

In a separate news report, a resident found a dumpster used by a Denver pharmacy with medical records for thousands of patients.

In another news report, Allina Hospitals & Clinics sent eight patients' information to 250,000 people because of a glitch in its mass email system.

Providers have more reason to be careful with patient information. The Office of Civil Rights has started conducting audits for HIPAA compliance. Audits of the first 20 providers have started, with 130 more to follow by the end of the year.

For more information, visit the Office of Civil Rights at www.hhs.gov/ocr.

RACs did not post new issues this week.

About the Author

Karen Long is the compliance product manager for DecisionHealth and oversees products that relate to fraud and abuse and HIPAA compliance for physician offices and home health agencies, and accreditation compliance for hospitals. In her almost four years at DecisionHealth, Karen also has been the compliance editor and a reporter for Home Health Line, nation's leading independent authority on home healthcare business, regulation and reimbursement.

Contact the Author

KLong@decisionhealth.com

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Karen Long

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