Health Privacy

US Department of Health and Human Services fines Arizona provider $100,000 for HIPAA violations

In a rare enforcement action of HIPAA, HHS fined an Arizona health care provider $100,000 for a variety of HIPAA violations, especially regarding electronic exchanges of protected health information. The HHS document outlining the reasons for the fine should act as a wake-up call to health care providers using public email, calendaring, and other tools for communication of ePHI. HHS specifically noted that the fined health care provider did not conduct an adequate risk assessment prior to using the email and Internet tools. The full HHS document is a must-read for health care providers. WPF has been warning about the need for full e-risk assessments since 2005 and strongly advocates for medical-identity-theft-specific risk assessments.

WPF urges HHS to do more to protect the privacy of people who are medical research subjects

Common Rule | Health Privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments with the US Department of Health and Human Services about its proposed changes regarding the rules governing human subject medical research. In the comments, WPF noted that the HHS approach to privacy for research subjects was incomplete and did not use all Fair Information Practices. WPF strongly urged HHS to revise its proposal on a number of issues, including consent and the use of biospecimens in research. The World Privacy Forum is urging HHS to acknowledge that the realm of health data that is truly non-identifiable has shrunken remarkably, for example, biospecimens with DNA cannot be considered non-identifiable anymore. “In our comments, we are requesting that HHS give individuals the opportunity to make choices about the use of their own health data and specimens,” said Executive director Pam Dixon. WPF also stated in its comments that “A central database with identifiable information about participants in human subjects research is a terrible idea.” (See p. 21 of WPF comments.)

Public Comments: October 2011 – WPF urges HHS to do more to protect the privacy of medical research subjects

The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments with the US Department of Health and Human Services about its proposed changes regarding the rules governing human subject medical research. In the comments, WPF noted that the HHS approach to privacy for research subjects was incomplete and did not use all Fair Information Practices. WPF strongly urged HHS to revise its proposal on a number of issues, including consent and the use of biospecimens in research. The World Privacy Forum is urging HHS to acknowledge that the realm of health data that is truly non-identifiable has shrunken remarkably, for example, biospecimens with DNA cannot be considered non-identifiable anymore. “In our comments, we are requesting that HHS give individuals the opportunity to make choices about the use of their own health data and specimens,” said Executive director Pam Dixon. WPF also stated in its comments that “A central database with identifiable information about participants in human subjects research is a terrible idea.” (See p. 21 of WPF comments.)

Public Comments: August 2011 – Proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule regarding Accounting of Disclosures under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act

The World Privacy Forum today filed its comments on the proposed changes to the HIPAA privacy rule, supporting some proposed changes and suggesting additional changes to enhance patient choice. In particular, the WPF supports the new patient right to an access report that has been added (p. 4), and has requested that Health Information Exchanges also be required to provide accountings of disclosures to patients (p. 18). The WPF generally argued that HHS needs to look forward and allow changes in information technology to fully benefit patients by providing the facility for more accounting rather than less (pp. 2-3). If the HIPAA rule gives patients a greater ability to monitor how their information is used and disclosed, patients will pay attention and requests for accounting of disclosures will become more common.