On January 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), announced the first Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) settlement based on the untimely reporting of a breach of unsecured protected health information (PHI). Presence Health agreed to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule by paying $475,000, and implementing a corrective action plan. With this settlement amount, OCR balanced the need to emphasize the importance of timely breach reporting with the desire not to disincentive breach reporting altogether.
Presence Health is one of the largest health care networks serving Illinois and consists of approximately 150 locations, including 11 hospitals and 27 long-term care and senior living facilities. Presence also has multiple physicians’ offices and health care centers in its system and offers home care, hospice care, and behavioral health services.
On January 31, 2014, OCR received a breach notification report from Presence indicating that on October 22, 2013, Presence discovered that paper-based operating room schedules, which contained the PHI of 836 individuals, were missing from the Presence Surgery Center at the Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois. The information consisted of the affected individuals’ names, dates of birth, medical record numbers, dates of procedures, types of procedures, surgeon names, and types of anesthesia. OCR’s investigation revealed that Presence Health failed to notify, without unreasonable delay and within 60 days of discovering the breach, each of the 836 individuals affected by the breach, prominent media outlets (as required for breaches affecting 500 or more individuals), and OCR.
“Covered entities need to have a clear policy and procedures in place to respond to the Breach Notification Rule’s timeliness requirements” said OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels. “Individuals need prompt notice of a breach of their unsecured PHI so they can take action that could help mitigate any potential harm caused by the breach.”
See the Department of Health and Human Services announcement
See also the OCR’s Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan
See also the OCR’s guidance on breach notification
See also Medical Law Perspectives, November 2012 Report: Liability for Electronic and Other Medical Record Information Disclosure