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Denver-Based FQHC Will Pay $400,000 HIPAA Settlement

April 12, 2017
by Heather Landi
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that a Denver-based provider, Metro Community Provider Network, has agreed to pay $400,000 and to implement a corrective action plan to settle potential noncompliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules.

The settlement is based on the lack of a security management process to safeguard electronic protected health information (ePHI), according to OCR.

Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN), a federally-qualified health center (FQHC) providing primary medical care, dental care, pharmacies, social work, and behavioral health care services throughout the greater Denver, Colorado metropolitan area to approximately 43,000 patients per year, a large majority of whom have incomes at or below the poverty level, according to the HHS OCR press release.

OCR officials said with this settlement amount, the agency “considered MCPN’s status as a FQHC when balancing the significance of the violation with MCPN’s ability to maintain sufficient financial standing to ensure the provision of ongoing patient care.”

According to OCR’s investigation, MCPN filed a breach report with OCR on January 27, 2012 indicating that a hacker accessed employees’ email accounts and obtained 3,200 individuals’ ePHI through a phishing incident. The breach took place in December 2011.

OCR then investigated the incident and the agency found that MCPN took necessary corrective action related to the phishing incident. However, according to OCR, the investigation also revealed that MCPN failed to conduct a risk analysis until mid-February 2012.

“Prior to the breach incident, MCPN had not conducted a risk analysis to assess the risks and vulnerabilities in its ePHI environment, and, consequently, had not implemented any corresponding risk management plans to address the risks and vulnerabilities identified in a risk analysis. When MCPN finally conducted a risk analysis, that risk analysis, as well as all subsequent risk analyses, were insufficient to meet the requirements of the Security Rule,” the agency stated in a press release.

“Patients seeking health care trust that their providers will safeguard and protect their health information,” OCR director Roger Severino said in a statement. “Compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule helps covered entities meet this important obligation to their patient communities.”

The Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan can be found here, and OCR’s guidance on the Security Rule can be accessed here.

 

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