2015 HIPAA Audits & Implications for Healthcare Cloud Computing

| April 26, 2016

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2014 ended with a cyber-security “bang” in the form of the Sony Pictures Entertainment cyber-attack and the breach at Deloitte, and 2015 is starting with a “boom” in healthcare privacy rules that will resonate for healthcare providers, plans and Business Associates, including cloud service providers. On January 13, 2014 Jocelyn Samuels, Director of the Office for Civil rights (OCR), the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that enforces HIPAA laws, announced that a new round of HIPAA audits is contemplated for later this year, and that OCR will issue a guidance document on the use of cloud computing in healthcare for Protected Health Information (PHI).An enhanced HIPAA security audit program had been scheduled for 2014, but had been delayed due to software difficulties and the need to revise the OCR audit protocol. While Ms. Samuels declined to provide a timeline for commencement of the audits, she stated that the audits represent a shift away from OCR’s prior model of investigation and proceedings instigated by a complaint (article available here)., The Director said, “OCR is committed to implementing an effective audit program, and audits will be an important compliance tool for OCR.” The audits “Will enable OCR to identify best practices and proactively uncover risks and vulnerabilities, like our other enforcement tools, such as complaints and compliance reviews.” For the first time, the audits will include HIPAA Business Associates, those organizations that access PHI to perform a service for providers and plans, and include law firms, accountants and consultants.

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