The HHS Office for Civil Rights needs to improve and expand its health privacy and data breach enforcement efforts. This was the message delivered by the September 29 release of twin reports by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General that assessed OCR’s enforcement of federal health privacy laws. The studies were commissioned out of concern that the failure to adequately safeguard health information can expose large numbers of patients “to privacy invasion, fraud, identity theft, and/or other harm.” The enforcement of the HIPAA privacy laws in the U.S. are viewed as critical to ensuring that vulnerabilities that can lead to data breaches and potential harm to patients are addressed.
The U.S. Department Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General issued two reports yesterday criticizing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (“ONC”) for doing too little to protect the security of patient health information. The first report, Nationwide Rollup Review of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services HIPAA Oversight, found that CMS oversight and enforcement “were not sufficient to ensure that covered entities, such as hospitals, effectively implemented the Security Rule.”