Breaking Compliance News Blog

HIPAA question of the day: Do your employees snoop?

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 9/24/19 8:07 AM

Nurse snooped records of 1,309 patients

A medical center employee snooped medical records of 1,309 patients over 15 months. The nurse looked up records for patients assigned to herself, or to another nurse - but did not have a treatment reason to view the records. The patients were notified.

Car accident leads to firing of 12 employees for snooping

A health system suspended approximately 12 employees while it investigated a potential HIPAA breach. The investigation likely involves a fatal motor vehicle accident involving a health system employee. The driver and another passenger from the car accident were treated at local hospitals for injuries.

Receptionist fired for looking up co-worker contact info in EHR

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Topics: HIPAA

Email HIPAA Breaches On the Rise

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 9/18/19 7:29 AM

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR), email breaches are on the rise.

The OCR maintains a database of breaches of unsecured protected health information affecting at least 500 individuals. MPA crunched some numbers, looking at OCR breach reports still under investigation for each six month period for the past 24 months. The number of email breaches reported to the OCR between the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2019 more than quintupled.

Let’s look at some real world examples to see how email use can breach HIPAA.

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Topics: HIPAA, data breach, security

CMS Changes SNF Compliance Program Requirements – Again

Posted by Margaret Scavotto & Scott Gima on 9/10/19 7:13 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, long-anticipated compliance program requirements are changing, one more time. Let’s take a look at what has changed – and what hasn’t.

The proposed rule

On July 16, 2019, CMS published a proposed rule that would modify multiple aspects of Phase III of the Long-Term Care Facilities Requirements for Participation (the “Proposed Rule”). The goal of the Proposed Rule is to reduce regulatory burdens and costs, allowing nursing homes to focus resources on providing quality resident care. Some of the most discussed proposed amendments are those to the Compliance and Ethics Program requirements (42 CFR 483.85), which, if finalized, will become effective one year later. With comments from the public due September 16, 2019, our best guess is that enforcement will begin October or November 2020.

Good news: fewer compliance-related F-tags ahead

Nursing homes: LeadingAge (and other associations) successfully lobbied on your behalf. 

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Topics: Affordable Care Act, OIG compliance resources, skilled nursing, compliance

* Breaking News; OCR enters first HIPAA settlement in Right of Access Initiative

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 9/9/19 12:36 PM

* Breaking News *

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) just announced its first settlement in the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative. 

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg paid an $85,000 settlement and entered a corrective action plan with the OCR to resolve allegations that it violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule by denying a patient the right to timely access to the medical records of her unborn child.

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Topics: HIPAA

Not-for-profit provider hit with ransomware twice in four months

Posted by Scott Gima on 8/28/19 6:35 AM

A not-for-profit community health center that provides health care for low-income and uninsured patients experienced two ransomware attacks in a four-month period. 

 

The first attack shut down computers for three weeks while the center rebuilt its systems from backups, and did not pay the ransom. This approach is consistent with industry advice for two reasons. First, there is no guarantee that the data will be reinstated after ransom is paid. Second, paying ransom encourages future ransomware attacks.

The second attack likewise locked the center out of its medical records.

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Topics: HIPAA, data breach, security

Nursing home sued after aides taunt resident on Snapchat

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 8/22/19 7:37 AM

Two nursing home certified nurse aides were fired and charged with disorderly conduct after filming a 91-year old resident in distress and posting the video to Snapchat. 

The two aides allegedly took a video recording of the resident in distress, while they waved a gown in her face - and the resident tried to push it away. The video caption read: "[Resident name] hates gowns," and was accompanied by laughing/crying emojis. Staff at the nursing home were aware that this resident did not care for hospital gowns.

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Topics: HIPAA, abuse, skilled nursing

What has compliance done for you lately?

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 8/20/19 7:51 AM

At the risk of getting some Billboard top ten 1980’s Janet Jackson lyrics stuck in your head for the rest of the day, I’d like to ask you an important question:

What has compliance done for you lately?

Phrased another way:

How has your compliance program helped your organization this year?

Did your hotline encourage employees to report potential false claims internally, so they could be self-reported? Did this hotline call possibly avoid a whistleblower situation?

Did routine compliance audits find a documentation issue – so you could correct it before it became a widespread problem?

Maybe the compliance department collaborated with the HIPAA Security Officer to run a ransomware and phishing campaign, educating employees about potentially hazardous emails and links. As a result, the Compliance Officer and Security Officer received dozens of calls from employees reporting suspicious emails and links that potentially contained ransomware or malware. Can you put a price tag on potentially avoiding a costly ransomware attack?

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Topics: Compliance Basics, Culture of Compliance, compliance, compliance officer

"Taxi!" and other wrong ways to handle reports of misdirected PHI

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 7/17/19 9:45 AM

In Canada (where privacy laws are similar to HIPAA), a man requested his surgery records, and soon received a package in the mail from the hospital. When he opened the package, however, he did not find his surgery records—he found another man’s autopsy.

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Topics: HIPAA

Abuse by Smartphone

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 7/9/19 9:57 AM

Four nurse aides commit abuse with Facebook Live

The family of an Illinois nursing home resident who appeared in a caregiver’s Facebook Live video is suing the home. Four nursing aids allegedly participated in a video of the resident, who is a stroke survivor with dementia. The lawsuit asserts that the video shows the resident in bed, holding a diaper, surrounding by employees who are harassing him. One of the caretakers is heard yelling “Take off your pants, [resident name].”

This example poses HIPAA concerns and abuse concerns. Without a patient authorization, it is a potential HIPAA violation to record the resident and share that recording with third parties. In addition, CMS made it clear in its Survey & Certification Memo 16-33 that humiliating or demeaning photos or recordings of nursing home residents are mental abuse.

Snapchat use leads to criminal charges

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Topics: HIPAA, Social Media, abuse

DOJ issues new guidance: Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 6/26/19 8:51 AM

The Department of Justice Criminal Division recently issued a Guidance Document for prosecutors: Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs

In this document, the DOJ outlines three questions prosecutors should ask when making an "individualized determination of a corporate compliance program's effectiveness:

  1. "Is the corporation's compliance program well designed?"
  2. "Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith?" In other words, is the program being implemented effectively?
  3. "Does the corporation's compliance program work" in practice?
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Topics: Compliance Basics, guidance

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