All posts in Health Privacy

Privacy and Security in Health Tech: Improving Transparency About Practices

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

Many app developers overlook privacy and security by failing to do one of the most basic first steps of data protection – informing consumers of their practices. For example, in a study published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 80% of diabetes apps surveyed didn’t have a notice informing consumers about privacy practices.  Another recent study of thousands of apps involving all topics revealed that nearly 50% lacked a privacy notice. A study by the Future of Privacy Forum in 2016 revealed that “only 70% of top health and fitness apps had a privacy policy.”

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HIPAA Cartoon on Snooping

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

This cartoon is about snooping, one of the most common HIPAA violations.  HIPAA prohibits accessing information that people don’t need to do their jobs.   It can be easy to look at electronic medical records, and people who snoop in this way might not perceive it as wrong.  But the cartoon invites people to imagine how creepy the snooping would appear if it were occurring right in front of patients.  Computers remove the interpersonal dynamic, making it harder for people to fully appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct.

Though the high-profile, celebrity snooping incidents garner all the media attention, smaller cases affecting everyday individuals make up the bulk of the cases and legal activity.  A large number of inappropriate access claims involve people checking on protected health information (PHI) about family and friends.  Snooping is not intended maliciously.  Often a concerned staff member will access the patient records of a family member or acquaintance out of worry or concern.  In one case, a nurse in New York was fired for disclosing a patient’s medical history to warn a family member who was romantically involved with the patient of the patient’s STD.

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HIPAA’s Failure to Provide Enough Patient Control Over Medical Records

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

HIPAA Privacy Rule

 

A Not-So-Far-Fetched Seinfeld Episode

In a Seinfeld episode called “The Package” from 1996 (click here to see the scene), airing just months after HIPAA was passed,  Elaine goes to see a doctor for a rash.

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Is HIPAA Enforcement Too Lax?

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

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By Daniel J. Solove

ProPublica has been running a series of lengthy articles about HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforcement that are worth reading.

A Sustained and Vigorous Critique of OCR HIPAA Enforcement

A ProPublica article from early in 2015 noted that HIPAA fines were quite rare. The article noted that from 2009 through 2014, more than 1,140 large data breaches were reported to OCR, affecting 41 million people. Another 120,000 HIPAA violations were reported affecting fewer than 500 people. “Yet, over that time span,” the article notes, “the Office for Civil Rights has fined health care organizations just 22 times. . . . By comparison, the California Department of Public Health . . . imposed 22 penalties last year alone.”

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Blogging Highlights 2015: Health Privacy+Security Issues

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

HIPAA Training

I’ve been going through my blog posts from 2015 to find the ones I most want to highlight.  Here are some selected posts about health privacy and security:

Why HIPAA Matters: Medical ID Theft and the
Human Cost of Health Privacy and Security Incidents

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Why HIPAA Matters: Medical ID Theft and the Human Cost of Health Privacy and Security Incidents

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

Why HIPAA matters

By Daniel J. Solove

Whenever I go to a doctor and am asked what I do for a living, I say that I focus on information privacy law.

“HIPAA?” the doctors will ask.

“Yes, HIPAA,” I confess.

And then the doctor’s face turns grim.  At first, it looks like the face of a doctor about to tell you that you’ve got a fatal disease.  Then, the doctor’s face crinkles up slightly with disgust. This face is so distinctive and so common that I think it should be called “HIPAA face.”  It’s about as bad as “stink eye.”

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Patient Access to Medical Records Under HIPAA: Significant Reform Needed

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

Doctor taking notes in his office, isolated

by Daniel J. Solove

Recently, I wrote about the challenges in accessing health information about family members.  In this post, I will explore patients’ access to their own medical records.

HIPAA doesn’t handle patient access to medical records very well. There are many misunderstandings about patient access under HIPAA that make it quite difficult for patients to obtain their medical information quickly and conveniently.

Getting records is currently like a scavenger hunt. Patients have to call and call again, wait seemingly forever to get records, and receive them via ancient means like mail and fax. I often scratch my head at why fax is still used today — it’s one step more advanced than carrier pigeon.

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HIPAA’s Friends and Family Network: Access to Health Information

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

HIPAA Training Blog Sharing PHI with Friends and Family 02

by Daniel J. Solove

Suppose your elderly mother is being treated at the hospital for a heart condition. Your mother tells her doctor that you can have access to her health information. The doctor, however, doesn’t disclose the information to you.

The doctor thinks that you can only have the information with a signed written authorization. Is this correct?

No. HIPAA doesn’t require a signed or even a written authorization. If a patient tells a doctor that protected health information (PHI) can be shared with family or friends, then that’s all that is needed. The doctor can disclose it to you.

So has the doctor violated HIPAA by refusing to disclose the PHI?

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Health Data Security in Crisis, Phase 2 Audits, and Other HIPAA Privacy + Security Updates

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

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By Daniel J. Solove

Co-authored with Professor Paul Schwartz

This post is part of a post series where we round up some of the interesting news and resources we’re finding. We have split the health/HIPAA material from our updates on other topics. To see our updates for other topics, click here.

For a PDF version of this post, and for archived issues of previous posts, click here.

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Myths About Privacy Law and the First Amendment

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

Privacy and First Amendment 01

by Daniel J. Solove

In Sorrell vs. IMS Health, 131 S. Ct. 2653 (2011), the Supreme Court struck down Vermont’s Prescription Confidentiality Law as a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. The Vermont law restricted the sale and marketing use of information that would identify prescribers without their consent. The Supreme Court reasoned that the Vermont law “enacts content- and speaker-based restrictions on the sale, disclosure, and use of prescriber-identifying information.” According to the Court, the statute made content-based restrictions because it singled out marketing, and the statute made speaker-based restrictions because it focused on pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Court stated: “The law on its face burdens disfavored speech by disfavored speakers.”

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The Health Data Breach and ID Theft Epidemic

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

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By Daniel J. Solove

When you go to the hospital, you might worry about catching a staph infection or pneumonia, but you should also worry about contracting a nasty case of medical identity theft. Most people suffer significant harm from medical ID theft, and few are completely cured. This ailment is spreading dramatically as data spurts out of healthcare organizations these days as if from a ruptured aorta.

In January of this year, an article citing U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) statistics noted that in the past 5 years, there have been roughly 120,000 reported data breaches involving HIPAA protected health information. These breaches have involved more than 31 million individuals.

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Why the Anthem Data Breach Is Needlessly Harmful

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

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By Daniel J. Solove

Recently, Anthem, one of the largest health insurance providers, suffered a massive data breach involving personal data on up to 80 million people. According to Anthem, the data breached includes “names, dates of birth, member ID/ social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information.”

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The Most Alarming Fact of the HIPAA Audits

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

hipaa audits 1

law blog 2

by Daniel J. Solove

Are privacy and security laws being enforced effectively? This post is post #5 of a series called Enforcing Privacy and Security Laws.

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), various organizations can be randomly selected to be audited – even if no complaint has been issued against them and even if there has been no privacy incident or breach.

What the audits thus far have revealed is quite alarming. I’ll discuss more on that later.

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The Brave New World of HIPAA Enforcement

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

hipaa enforcement

law blog 2

by Daniel J. Solove

Are privacy and security laws being enforced effectively? This post is post #4 of a series called Enforcing Privacy and Security Laws.

hhs logoThe Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations govern health information maintained by various entities covered by HIPAA (“covered entities”) and other organizations that receive health information from covered entities when performing functions for them. HIPAA is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Additionally, state attorneys general (AGs) may enforce HIPAA – only a few federal privacy laws can also be enforced by state AGs.

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