The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a revised web tool, the breach portal, or “Wall of Shame” as it’s known in the healthcare industry, that the agency says features ease-of-use for organizations reporting data breach incidents.
HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) says the revised web tool, which can be found at https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf, puts important information into the hands of individuals, empowering them to better identify recent breaches of health information and to learn how all breaches of health information are investigated and successfully resolved.
In the past, many healthcare industry leaders and federal lawmakers have voiced concerns about the negative impact of a public data breach portal, or “Wall of Shame.” During a House Energy and Commerce Oversight subcommittee hearing on healthcare cybersecurity back in June, members of the subcommittee said that penalties from the Office of Civil Rights and the data breach portal “Wall of Shame” was, in effect, “victimizing the victims” of data breaches.
According to OCR officials, the HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool (HBRT), also known as the HHS OCR breach portal, features improved navigation for both those looking for information on breaches and ease-of-use for organizations reporting incidents, the agency says. “The tool also helps educate the industry on the types of breaches that are occurring, industry-wide or within particular sectors, and how breaches are commonly resolved following investigations launched by OCR, which can help industry improve the security posture of their organizations,” the agency stated in an announcement.
HHS OCR originally released the HBRT in 2009, as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HRBT makes available to the public information that entities covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) report to OCR when they are involved in breaches of unsecured protected health information of 500 or more individuals. The tool includes: the name of the entity; state where the entity is located; number of individuals affected by the breach; the date of the breach; type of breach (e.g., hacking/IT incident, theft, loss, unauthorized access/disclosure); and location of the breached information (e.g., laptop, paper records, desktop computer).
HIPAA also requires the covered entity to promptly notify affected individuals of a breach, and, in some cases, notify the media.
New features of the HBRT include enhanced functionality that highlights breaches currently under investigation and reported within the last 24 months; new archive that includes all older breaches and information about how breaches were resolved; improved navigation to additional breach information and tips for consumers.
“HHS plans on expanding and improving the site over time to add functionality and features based on feedback. The HBRT provides transparency to the public and organizations covered by HIPAA and helps highlight the importance of safeguards to protect the privacy and security of sensitive health care information,” the agency stated.
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