Hospitals embracing IoT must be prepared to secure a decentralized environment

HIPAA: Failure to Report Breach Costs Hospital Millions

One health system recently learned the cost of relying too heavily on the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule’s “low probability of compromise” standard when it failed to notify all affected individuals and report the HIPAA breach to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

HIPAA covered entities frequently struggle with determining whether an inappropriate disclosure of protected health information (PHI) rises to the level of a reportable HIPAA breach—or alternatively, whether the disclosure creates only a “low probability of compromise.” A low probability of compromise determination means the covered entity is not required to notify the affected individual(s) or OCR under HIPAA’s Breach Notification Rule.

On November 27, 2019, Sentara Hospitals (Sentara), a health system with sites of care in Virginia and North Carolina, settled with OCR for $2.175 million for failing to properly notify OCR and affected individuals of a breach of unsecured PHI. Specifically, Sentara mailed out 577 patient billing statements to the incorrect addresses. The billing statements included patient names, account numbers, and dates of services. At the time of the incident, Sentara conducted a risk assessment and determined Sentara only needed to notify eight individuals of the breach because the other disclosures did not contain a patient diagnosis, treatment information, or other medical information. That is, Sentara determined the other disclosures created only a “low risk of compromise” to the PHI and thus, notification was not required.