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Oops! Failure to Safeguard PHI Leads to a $650,000 HIPAA Settlement

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently reported that Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CHCS) has agreed to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule after the theft of a CHCS mobile device compromised the protected health information (PHI) of 412 nursing home residents.  CHCS provided management and information technology services as a business associate to six skilled nursing facilities.  The settlement includes a monetary payment of $650,000 and a corrective action plan.

It was determined that CHCS experienced a breach of PHI involving the theft of a CHCS-issued employee iPhone.  According to the OCR report, the iPhone was unencrypted and was not password protected.  The information on the iPhone included social security numbers, information regarding diagnosis and treatment, medical procedures, names of family members and legal guardians, and medication information.   In addition, at the time of the incident, CHCS had no policies addressing the removal of mobile devices containing PHI from its facility or what to do in the event of a security incident; OCR also determined that CHCS had no risk analysis or risk management plan.

This settlement serves as an important reminder that mobile devices that can access, store or transmit ePHI must be adequately safeguarded.  As we have previously mentioned, OCR has a firm stance on encryption; encryption is addressable to a certain extent.  In the event of a lost or stolen iPhone or other mobile device, encryption or an equal alternative is your best defense.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us by phone: 855-427-0427 or by email: [email protected].

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