The University of Washington Medicine (UWM) in Seattle has agreed to settle charges that it potentially violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule by failing to implement policies and procedures to prevent, detect, contain, and correct security violations.
UWM is an affiliated covered entity, which includes designated healthcare components and other entities under the control of the University of Washington, including University of Washington Medical Center, the primary teaching hospital of the University of Washington School of Medicine. The settlement includes a monetary payment of $750,000, a corrective action plan, and annual reports on the organization’s compliance efforts.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated its investigation of UWM following receipt of a breach report on Nov. 27, 2013, which indicated that the electronic protected health information (PHI) of about 90,000 individuals was accessed after an employee downloaded an email attachment that contained malicious malware. The malware compromised the organization’s IT system and affected the data of two groups of patients: approximately 76,000 patients involving a combination of patient names, medical record numbers, dates of service, and/or charges or bill balances; and approximately 15,000 patients involving names, medical record numbers, other demographics such as address and phone number, dates of birth, charges or bill balances, social security numbers, insurance identification, or Medicare numbers.
“OCR’s investigation indicated UWM’s security policies required its affiliated entities to have up-to-date, documented system-level risk assessments and to implement safeguards in compliance with the Security Rule,” OCR explained in a public statement. “However, UWM did not ensure that all of its affiliated entities were properly conducting risk assessments and appropriately responding to the potential risks and vulnerabilities in their respective environments.”
OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels released a statement that said “All too often we see covered entities with a limited risk analysis that focuses on a specific system such as the electronic medical record or that fails to provide appropriate oversight and accountability for all parts of the enterprise. An effective risk analysis is one that is comprehensive in scope and is conducted across the organization to sufficiently address the risks and vulnerabilities to patient data.”
The Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan can be found on the OCR website at http://tinyurl.com/z8vkwm2. HHS guidance on how to conduct a HIPAA Risk Analysis is available at http://tinyurl.com/n655jzg.