Limited HIPAA privacy audits begin

January 12, 2012

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) began pilot testing an auditing program to ensure health care practitioners are protecting the privacy and security of patient information as required under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“These first-ever HIPAA audits are a compliance improvement activity, which means they are primarily designed to identify and correct privacy and security issues rather than to punish health care practitioners for violations,” the AOA Washington office noted in an e-mail message on the new auditing program.

Few optometric practices are likely to be selected for the pilot auditing program, the AOA Washington office notes. Only about 150 HIPPA-covered health care entities will be audited under the pilot program.

HIPAA is believed to cover well more than a million payers, health care facilities, practices, and business associates nationwide.

However, the HHS plans to expand the auditing program over time and practitioners may wish to review their privacy and information security policies to ensure compliance with federal regulations, the AOA Washington staff noted.

Should a practice be selected for a privacy and security audit, practitioners and staff should respond promptly to auditors and view the audits as an educational opportunity, the AOA Washington office advisesd.

The pilot privacy and security auditing program begins this month and is slated to run through December 2012.

Additional information can be found on the HHS Web site at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/index.html.

AOA members can review compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Regulations using the AOA HIPAA Privacy Regulation Compliance Manual and AOA HIPAA Security Regulation Compliance Manual, which can be accessed on the AOA Regulatory Issues Web page (www.aoa.org/x4837).

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