The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will collect $1.5 million from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates Inc. (MEEI) as a settlement for potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule that occurred when a laptop containing electronic protected health information (ePHI) was stolen. MEEI also agreed to take action while improving policies and procedures to safeguard patients’ protected health information.
The information contained on the laptop included patient prescriptions and clinical information. According to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (ONCR), MEEI failed to take necessary steps to comply with certain requirements of the Security Rule, such as conducing a risk to the confidentiality of ePHI maintained on portable devices, implementing security measures sufficient to ensure the confidentiality of ePHI that MEEI created, maintained, and transmitted using portable devices, adopting and implementing policies and procedures to restrict access to ePHI to authorized users of portable devices, and adopting and implementing policies and procedures to address security incident identification, reporting, and response
“In an age when health information is stored and transported on portable devices such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, special attention must be paid to safeguarding the information held on these devices,” OCR Director Leon Rodriguez said in a statement. “This enforcement action emphasizes that compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules must be prioritized by management and implemented throughout an organization, from top to bottom.”
HHS OCR enforces the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, as well as the HITECH Breach Notification Rule.