For three years, we’ve heard how phase 2 of the HIPAA compliance regulations will “soon” be put into place. Now, though, during a conference last week, the Office for Civil Rights told those in attendance that the program is still “under development”. Attorney Alessandra Swanson, who is an OCR team leader from the agency’s Chicago office, declined to comment on a timeline or when the new HIPAA audits might begin. The audits help ensure those safety mechanisms are in place and working as they should. She also refused to comment on what the program might look like once it is in place.
This law was designed to protect the privacy of individually identifiable health information. The HIPAA Security Rule is what sets the standards – on a national level – for the security of electronic protected health information. It goes further and addresses confidentiality issues associated with the Patient Safety Rule, another relatively new law. As estate planning lawyers, we know the importance of living wills and medical powers of attorney. Now, though, with this latest news, there’s even more importance being placed on your estate planning documents that cover these issues.
Many Problems, Few Solutions
You may recall that two New York organizations recently settled a lawsuit alleging they failed to properly secure electronic health information forms, or ePHI, for thousands of their patients. The total they’ve been ordered to pay is a massive $4.8 million. Those two organizations are the New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) and Columbia University (CU). The breach dates back more than four years.
Despite efforts in the past of attempting encryption, both hospitals fell short and ended up with inconsistent dynamics that highlighted the vulnerabilities. What’s most shocking is that these breaches have been ongoing for a few years. HIPAA laws were written to offset these intrusions. Unfortunately, auditors often find breaches and downright overlooked, though obvious errors.
Medical Powers of Attorney
So why is this important for your own medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy? Because the fines are getting larger, the law has yet to find its place and the stakes for consumers continue to grow. Not getting it right can mean big problems for your family members.
By putting the necessary legal paperwork in place, namely a medical power of attorney, a living will and healthcare proxy, you’re protecting yourself and your family. One small error can be enough to result in a hospital erring on the side of caution, which could mean your family members won’t have access to you and important medical treatments that could affect you and your family.
To learn more about these important estate planning documents and to take steps to protect you and your loved ones, contact our offices today. We’ll show you how to ensure HIPAA doesn’t become a burden in your time of need, even if it continues to be delayed. They may not have the details in place, but you can cover your bases despite the government’s progress.