Massachusetts provider settles HIPAA case for $1.5 million
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates, Inc. (collectively referred to as “MEEI”) has agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) $1.5 million to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. MEEI has also agreed to take corrective action to improve policies and procedures to safeguard the privacy and security of their patients’ protected health information and retain an independent monitor to report on MEEI’s compliance efforts. OCR’s investigation followed a breach report submitted by MEEI, as required by the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, reporting the theft of an unencrypted personal laptop containing the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of MEEI patients and research subjects. The information contained on the laptop included patient prescriptions and clinical information. OCR’s investigation indicated that while MEEI’s management was aware of the Security Rule, MEEI failed to take necessary steps to comply with the requirements of the Rule, such as such as conducting a thorough analysis of the 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.