In its most recent cybersecurity newsletter, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) provided guidance regarding identifying vulnerabilities and mitigating the associated risks of software used to process electronic protected health information (“ePHI”). The guidance, along with additional resources identified by OCR, are outlined below: Continue Reading OCR Issues Guidance on Disclosures to Family, Friends and Others

On June 6, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a 2016 Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) order compelling LabMD to implement a “comprehensive information security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, confidentiality, and integrity of personal information collected from or about consumers.” The Eleventh Circuit agreed with LabMD that the FTC order was unenforceable because it did not direct the company to stop any “unfair act or practice” within the meaning of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (the “FTC Act”). Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Vacates FTC Data Security Order

The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) recently published two advance notices of proposed rulemaking that address the accounting of disclosures and the potential distribution of civil monetary penalties to affected individuals.

Continue Reading HHS Publishes Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking on Accounting of Disclosures and Civil Monetary Penalties

On February 13, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced that it entered into a resolution agreement with the receiver appointed to liquidate the assets of Filefax, Inc. (“Filefax”) in order to settle potential violations of HIPAA. Filefax offered medical record storage, maintenance and delivery services for covered entities, and had gone out of business during the course of OCR’s investigation.  Continue Reading Unsecured PHI Leads to OCR Settlement with Closed Business

On February 1, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced a settlement with dialysis clinic operator, Fresenius Medical Care (“Fresenius”). Fresenius will pay OCR $3.5 million to settle claims brought under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules, alleging that lax security practices led to five breaches of electronic protected health information. Continue Reading HHS Announces $3.5 Million Settlement with Fresenius Medical Care

On January 23, 2018, the New York Attorney General announced that Aetna Inc. (“Aetna”) agreed to pay $1.15 million and enhance its privacy practices following an investigation alleging it risked revealing the HIV status of 2,460 New York residents by mailing them information in transparent window envelopes. In July 2017, Aetna sent HIV patients information on how to fill their prescriptions using envelopes with large clear plastic windows, through which patient names, addresses, claims numbers and medication instructions were visible. Through this, the HIV status of some patients was visible to third parties. The letters were sent to notify members of a class action lawsuit that, pursuant to that suit’s resolution, they could purchase HIV medications at physical pharmacy locations, rather than via mail order delivery. Continue Reading Aetna Agrees to $1.15 Million Settlement with New York Attorney General

As reported in BNA Privacy Law Watch, on December 6, 2017, health care provider 21st Century Oncology agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle charges by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) that its security practices led to a data breach involving patient information. The settlement was made public in the company’s December 6, 2017, bankruptcy filing. The HHS charges stemmed from a 2015 data breach involving the compromise of Social Security numbers, medical diagnoses and health insurance information of at least 2.2 million patients. OCR found that 21st Century Oncology failed to perform risk assessments on its systems or implement effective security protocols to protect patient information. As part of the settlement, 21st Century Oncology did not admit liability but did agree, in addition to the $2.3 million payment, to undertake a revision of its information security policies and procedures and to implement certain information security measures, including risk assessments.

On October 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued an announcement clarifying when protected health information (“PHI”) can be shared with family, friends and others. This announcement, prompted by the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, outlines the purposes for which PHI can be disclosed to these parties pursuant to HIPAA and the conditions that apply, which are summarized below: Continue Reading OCR Issues Guidance on Disclosures to Family, Friends and Others

On September 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued an announcement containing disaster preparedness and recovery guidance in advance of Hurricane Irma. The announcement follows a bulletin issued in late August during Hurricane Harvey that addressed how protected health information (“PHI”) can be shared during emergencies. Together, these communications underscore key privacy and security issues for entities covered by HIPAA to help them protect individuals’ health information before, during and after emergency situations. Continue Reading OCR Releases Guidance on HIPAA Compliance During Emergencies

On September 5, 2017, the FTC announced that Lenovo, Inc. (“Lenovo”) agreed to settle charges that its preloaded software on some laptop computers compromised online security protections in order to deliver advertisements to consumers. The settlement agreement (the “Settlement”) is between Lenovo, the FTC and 32 State Attorneys General.  Continue Reading FTC Announces Settlement with Lenovo Regarding Preinstalled Laptop Software