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HIPAA's Getting Tougher- Are you Ready?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") has moved to strengthen the privacy protection for Personal Health Information ("PHI") established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA")

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") has moved to strengthen the privacy protection for Personal Health Information ("PHI") established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA").

The changes greatly increase privacy protections for PHI while also strengthening enforcement. Penalties are increased for noncompliance with possible penalties of $1.5 million per occurrence. The changes also clarify when breaches of unsecured PHI must be reported.

The focus of OCR Audits and Assessments will be on whether PHI has been compromised and then the covered entity must clearly prove that there is a low probability the information has been compromised. Additionally, the changes expand many of the requirements to business associates of these entities that receive protected health information, such as contractors and subcontractors.

There are still the core 18 PHI identifiers that HIPAA requires protection for:

  1. Names
  2. All geographical subdivisions smaller than a State, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code, and their equivalent geocodes, except for the initial three digits of a zip code, if according to the current publicly available data from the Bureau of the Census: (1) The geographic unit formed by combining all zip codes with the same three initial digits contains more than 20,000 people; and (2) The initial three digits of a zip code for all such geographic units containing 20,000 or fewer people is changed to 000.
  3. All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death; and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age, except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older.
  4. Phone numbers
  5. Fax numbers
  6. Electronic mail addresses
  7. Social Security numbers
  8. Medical record numbers
  9. Health plan beneficiary numbers
  10. Account numbers
  11. Certificate/license numbers
  12. Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers
  13. Device identifiers and serial numbers
  14. Web Universal Resource Locators (URLs)
  15. Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers
  16. Biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints
  17. Full face photographic images and any comparable images
  18. Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code (note this does not mean the unique code assigned by the investigator to code the data)

Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the changes and requirements? Get a jump on ensuring your data is protected and within HIPAA's requirements with our recorded webinar, Defending Data in Healthcare: Securing Private Information to Ensure Ironclad HIPAA Compliance. You can also get some further details on our HIPAA resource page.