News, Developments, and Insights

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Is HIPAA Enforcement Too Lax?


By Daniel J. Solove

ProPublica has been running a series of lengthy articles about HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforcement that are worth reading.

A Sustained and Vigorous Critique of OCR HIPAA Enforcement

A ProPublica article from early in 2015 noted that HIPAA fines were quite rare. The article noted that from 2009 through 2014, more than 1,140 large data breaches were reported to OCR, affecting 41 million people. Another 120,000 HIPAA violations were reported affecting fewer than 500 people. “Yet, over that time span,” the article notes, “the Office for Civil Rights has fined health care organizations just 22 times. . . . By comparison, the California Department of Public Health . . . imposed 22 penalties last year alone.”

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Blogging Highlights 2015: Health Privacy+Security Issues

HIPAA Training

I’ve been going through my blog posts from 2015 to find the ones I most want to highlight.  Here are some selected posts about health privacy and security:

Why HIPAA Matters: Medical ID Theft and the
Human Cost of Health Privacy and Security Incidents


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Why HIPAA Matters: Medical ID Theft and the Human Cost of Health Privacy and Security Incidents

Why HIPAA matters

By Daniel J. Solove

Whenever I go to a doctor and am asked what I do for a living, I say that I focus on information privacy law.

“HIPAA?” the doctors will ask.

“Yes, HIPAA,” I confess.

And then the doctor’s face turns grim.  At first, it looks like the face of a doctor about to tell you that you’ve got a fatal disease.  Then, the doctor’s face crinkles up slightly with disgust. This face is so distinctive and so common that I think it should be called “HIPAA face.”  It’s about as bad as “stink eye.”

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Patient Access to Medical Records Under HIPAA: Significant Reform Needed

Doctor taking notes in his office, isolated

by Daniel J. Solove

Recently, I wrote about the challenges in accessing health information about family members.  In this post, I will explore patients’ access to their own medical records.

HIPAA doesn’t handle patient access to medical records very well. There are many misunderstandings about patient access under HIPAA that make it quite difficult for patients to obtain their medical information quickly and conveniently.

Getting records is currently like a scavenger hunt. Patients have to call and call again, wait seemingly forever to get records, and receive them via ancient means like mail and fax. I often scratch my head at why fax is still used today — it’s one step more advanced than carrier pigeon.

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HIPAA’s Friends and Family Network: Access to Health Information

HIPAA Training Blog Sharing PHI with Friends and Family 02

by Daniel J. Solove

Suppose your elderly mother is being treated at the hospital for a heart condition. Your mother tells her doctor that you can have access to her health information. The doctor, however, doesn’t disclose the information to you.

The doctor thinks that you can only have the information with a signed written authorization. Is this correct?

No. HIPAA doesn’t require a signed or even a written authorization. If a patient tells a doctor that protected health information (PHI) can be shared with family or friends, then that’s all that is needed. The doctor can disclose it to you.

So has the doctor violated HIPAA by refusing to disclose the PHI?

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