Lehey Pays $850K After Unencrypted Laptop Stolen

Tufts Medical School affiliate Lahey Hospital and Medical Center (Lahey) must pay an $850,000 resolution payment and adopt and implement a robust corrective action plan to settle charges that it engaged in widespread noncompliance with the Privacy & Security Rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) brought by the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) as a result of an OCR investigation into Lahey’s report of a stolen, unencrypted laptop. The Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan (Resolution Agreement) with Lahey announced by OCR on November 25, 2015, should remind health care providers and their business associates of the importance of ensuring proper encryption of all portable laptop or other devices that may contain electronic protected health information (ePHI) including those used in connection with or as part of diagnostic equipment or devices.

Lahey entered into the to settle OCR charges brought as a result of an OCR investigation prompted by Lahey’s report in 2011 of a stolen laptop that operated a portable computerized tomography (“CT”) scanner and produced images for viewing through Lahey’s Radiology Information System and Picture Archiving and Communication System.
The stolen laptop was unencrypted and contained electronic protected health information (ePHI) of approximately 599 individuals. It was stolen from an unlocked treatment room off of the inner corridor of Lahey’s Radiology Department while out of use overnight.

According to OCR’s November 25, 2015 announcement of the Lahey Resolution Agreement, OCR’s investigation into the theft uncovered evidence of widespread non-compliance with the HIPAA rules, including:
• Failure to conduct a thorough risk analysis of all of its ePHI;
• Failure to physically safeguard a workstation that accessed ePHI;
• Failure to implement and maintain policies and procedures regarding the safeguarding of ePHI maintained on workstations utilized in connection with diagnostic/laboratory equipment;
• Lack of a unique user name for identifying and tracking user identity with respect to the workstation at issue in this incident;
• Failure to implement procedures that recorded and examined activity in the workstation at issue in this incident; and
• Impermissible disclosure of 599 individuals’ PHI.

In addition to the $850,000 settlement, the Resolution Agreement requires Lahey to address its history of noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules by providing OCR with a comprehensive, enterprise-wide risk analysis and corresponding risk management plan, as well as reporting certain events and providing evidence of compliance.

OCR’s announcement of the Resolution Agreement drives home the importance of proper laptop or other mobile device encryption.  “It is essential that covered entities apply appropriate protections to workstations associated with medical devices such as diagnostic or laboratory equipment,” said OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels. “Because these workstations often contain ePHI and are highly portable, such ePHI must be considered during an entity’s risk analysis, and entities must ensure that necessary safeguards that conform to HIPAA’s standards are in place.”

The Lahey Resolution Agreement is the latest in a series of OCR Resolution Agreements that drive home the requirement that health care providers properly secure laptops and other mobile devices that may contain ePHI. While OCR has made clear that these security efforts should begin with proper encryption of the devices, other safeguards also may be warranted.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 27 years’ experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. The scribe for the American Bar Association (ABA) Joint Committee on Employee Benefits annual agency meeting with the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights, Ms. Stamer has worked extensively with health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, their business associates, employers, banks and other financial institutions, and others on risk management and compliance with HIPAA and other information privacy and data security rules, investigating and responding to known or suspected breaches, defending investigations or other actions by plaintiffs, OCR and other federal or state agencies, reporting known or suspected violations, business associate and other contracting, commenting or obtaining other clarification of guidance, training and enforcement, and a host of other related concerns. Her clients include public and private health care providers, health insurers, health plans, technology and other vendors, and others. In addition to representing and advising these organizations, she also has conducted training on Privacy & The Pandemic for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans, as well as HIPAA, FACTA, PCI, medical confidentiality, insurance confidentiality and other privacy and data security compliance and risk management for Los Angeles County Health Department, ISSA, HIMMS, the ABA, SHRM, schools, medical societies, government and private health care and health plan organizations, their business associates, trade associations and others.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

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Other Helpful Resources & Other Information.

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here. You also can get access to information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,” using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low-cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication see here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS. ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2015 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.

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