Hospital to pay $218,400 for HIPAA violations

Image removed.St. Elizabeth's Medical Center must pay $218,400 for HIPAA violations through an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights.

In 2012, the OCR received a complaint alleging that the Brighton, Massachusetts-based health center did not analyze the risks of an Internet-based document sharing app, which stored protected health information for almost 500 individuals, according to an announcement from OCR.

During its investigation, OCR found that the health center "failed to timely identify and respond to the known security incident, mitigate the harmful effects of the security incident, and document the security incident and its outcome." In addition, St. Elizabeth's in 2014 submitted notification to OCR that a laptop and USB drive had been breached, putting unsecured protected health information for 595 consumers at risk.

OCR also is requiring that St. Elizabeth's adopt a corrective action plan to correct deficiencies in its HIPAA compliance program.

"Organizations must pay particular attention to HIPAA's requirements when using Internet-based document sharing applications," OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels said in an announcement. "In order to reduce potential risks and vulnerabilities, all workforce members must follow all policies and procedures, and entities must ensure that incidents are reported and mitigated in a timely manner."

A recent report from application security vendor Veracode found that the healthcare industry fares poorly compared to other industries in reducing application security risk.

Healthcare also is near the bottom of the pack when it comes to addressing remediation, with only 43 percent of known vulnerabilities being remediated.

While Phase II of the federal HIPAA audit program remains "under development," Samuels reiterated in March that OCR is "committed to implementing a robust audit program," FierceHealthIT previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the OCR announcement (.pdf)
- here's the agreement (.pdf)

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