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Stolen Laptop Leads to HIPAA Violation and $1.5 Million Fine

Mandate Includes Better Security

September 24, 2012

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, a Boston hospital, agreed to pay $1.5 million to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services September 17, settling a HIPAA violation stemming from a 2010 incident. Two years ago, while a doctor was traveling abroad, his unencrypted laptop containing information on roughly 3,500 patients, including patient prescriptions and other clinical information was stolen.

According to an alert then, the laptop contained no billing data but did contain patients’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, emails, and other identifiable information. While it was never confirmed any patients had their information breached, the hospital informed HHS of the incident and an investigation was initiated. The investigation found the hospital failed to comply with six areas of HIPAA between October 2009 and June 2010. MEEI failed to implement security measures sufficient to ensure the confidentiality of electronic protected health information and conduct a thorough analysis of the risk to the confidentiality of electronic protected health information maintained on portable devices, among other steps, said a press release obtained by Security magazine Blog.

Besides the fine, the hospital and its security operation must also follow a new Corrective Action Plan that outlines steps to ensure it complies with HIPAA, perform risk assessment, and train its staff. It must also submit to semi-annual audits for 3 years.

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