HIPAA & Health Information
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) jointly create national standards for electronic transactions, code sets, and unique identifiers. The ACA introduced Administrative Simplification provisions in 2010 and now the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has launched a Compliance Review Program to ensure that HIPAA covered entities are abiding by the Administrative Simplification rules.
Despite all preventive measures that hospitals and health care systems put in place to stop data breaches from occurring, employees at these entities still have unsecured and un-encrypted laptops, which are susceptible to cybersecurity attacks. A report from a cybersecurity protection organization stated that a majority of high-risk scenarios that occur in health care entities were due to unsecure laptops. These unsecured laptops can lead to massive data breaches and can result in hefty fines imposed by the Office of Civil Rights. Proper encryption, tracking software, and rarely leaving laptops unattended are a few ways that employees and organizations can help safeguard protected health information and prevent data breaches.
Cook County General Administrative Order 18-1 pertains to the Standard HIPAA Qualified Protective Orders (QPO) that will be permitted in Cook County. These orders will only be allowed for cases that are in litigation where the Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel authorize disclosure of a litigants’ protected health information (PHI). It also requires all entities who received PHI to either return the documents to the Plaintiff or destroy them at the end of the case. These changes mean that Plaintiff’s attorneys will see a change in the handling of Plaintiff’s medical records and other documents covered under the QPO containing PHI.
On March 1, 2019, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (“CHIME”) sent a six-page letter to Congress which discussed how technology has impacted health care costs. CHIME believes that too much money is being allocated towards making sure that health care organizations are complying with the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) and the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) requirements, while not enough resources are being given towards actually protecting against cybersecurity attacks. The letter contains multiple suggestions in which patient data could be better protected, such as incentivizing health care organizations to implement more cybersecurity safety measures. However, many of CHIME’s proposals would require Congress to amend multiple provisions in acts, such as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH Act”).
In 2014, Congress passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act in the hopes of encouraging innovation for new sunscreen ingredients. Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new regulations regarding over-the-counter sunscreens to keep up with recent scientific and safety information. This proposal will be available for ninety days from its announcement on February 21, 2019, and addresses safety concerns of common sunscreen ingredients. Further, the proposal addresses the labeling of sunscreen, trying to make it easier for consumers to identify the product information. While this proposal seeks to alleviate safety concerns, the regulation could potentially make it more difficult for new ingredients to be approved.
In March 2019, Rush University Medical Center (“Rush University”) sent out breach notification letters to approximately 45,000 patients. The letter advises patients that a privacy incident occurred that may have involved the patients’ personal information. The privacy incident was caused by an employee of a third-party financial services vendor. The employee released a file that contained patient information to an unauthorized person. According to the breach notification letter, law enforcement and regulatory officials were involved in the investigation of the privacy incident. Rush University sent the breach notification letter in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s privacy and security rules.
With the recent change of New York’s abortion law, legislators granted women the affirmative right to abortions under the state’s public-health law. Under the Reproductive Health Act, restrictions on abortion past twenty-four weeks are removed legalizing abortion up until the day of birth. This bill was passed on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The new bill comes as a reaction to the confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, giving protection to women’s access to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Proving to be very controversial, the change has advocates and critics at odds with its potential future effects.
The FDA regulationson human subject protection and Institutional Review Boards(IRBs) provide guidance to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects who participate in FDA-regulated clinical investigations. The regulations conform with the requirements set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Federal Policy of Human Research Subjects(45 CFR 46, part A). In order to reduce confusion and burdens associated with complying with both the FDA regulations and the HHS policies regarding human subject protections, the FDA is revising the current “common rule”.
Protected Health Information is seeing a surge of breaches on the cyber security front due to contractor error. It’s also impacting the most consumers in comparison to other data breaches and, in some cases, has the power to cause chaos in national infrastructure. Advances in technology and compliance measures can stem the tide and protect the most valuable information in consumers lives.
In a time when data breaches occur fairly frequently, whether it’s credit card information being stolen from department stores or a credit reporting bureau breach affecting hundreds of millions of customers, keeping personal information private seems to get harder every day. That fact may give patients pause when they are asked to sign up for an electronic health record account. A 2017 survey listed electronic health record management as one of patients top concerns. Changes in recent years have led to changes in compliance measures that make electronic health records security an added benefit to patients and ensure the continued increase of their adoption.