HHS Improves HIPAA Breach Web Reporting Tool

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have launched a revised web tool that puts important information into the hands of individuals, empowering them to better identify recent breaches of health information and to learn how all breaches of health information are investigated and successfully resolved.

The HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool (HBRT) features improved navigation for both those looking for information on breaches and ease-of-use for organizations reporting incidents.  The tool also helps educate industry on the types of breaches that are occurring, industry-wide or within particular sectors, and how breaches are commonly resolved following investigations launched by OCR, which can help industry improve the security posture of their organizations.

“HHS heard from the public that we needed to focus more on the most recent breaches and clarify when entities have taken action to resolve the issues that might have led to their breaches,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D.  “To that end, we have taken steps to make this website, which features only larger breaches, a more positive, relevant source of information for concerned consumers.”

HHS OCR originally released the HBRT in 2009, as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HRBT makes available to the public information that  entities covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) report to OCR when they are involved in breaches of unsecured protected health information of 500 or more individuals.  The tool includes: the name of the entity; state where the entity is located; number of individuals affected by the breach; the date of the breach; type of breach (e.g., hacking/IT incident, theft, loss, unauthorized access/disclosure); and location of the breached information (e.g., laptop, paper records, desktop computer).

HIPAA also requires the covered entity to promptly notify affected individuals of a breach, and, in some cases, notify the media.

“The HBRT provides health care organizations and consumers with the ability to more easily review breaches reported to OCR,” said Roger Severino, Director of OCR.  “Furthermore, greater access to timely information strengthens consumer trust and transparency – qualities central to the Administration’s focus on a more innovative and effective government.”

New features of the HBRT include:

  • Enhanced functionality that highlights breaches currently under investigation and reported within the last 24 months;
  • New archive that includes all older breaches and information about how breaches were resolved;
  • Improved navigation to additional breach information; and
  • Tips for consumers.

HHS plans on expanding and improving the site over time to add functionality and features based on feedback.  The HBRT provides transparency to the public and organizations covered by HIPAA and helps highlight the importance of safeguards to protect the privacy and security of sensitive health care information.

The HBRT may be found at:  https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/breach/breach_report.jsf.  For additional information on HIPAA breach notification, visit:  https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/breach-notification


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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