Laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) are designed to protect the privacy of patient information. Although the law has always covered all medical providers, its enforcement had long been directed mainly at hospitals and health systems. But when Congress passed incentives in 2009, as part of the economic stimulus program, to encourage adoption of electronic health records systems by medical practices, it included provisions that enhanced enforcement of privacy and security rules, and increased penalties. It also required the Department of Health and Human Services to periodically audit healthcare providers for potential HIPAA violations.
A case in point: A five-physician practice in Arizona was fined $100,000 by the federal government for using a publically accessible online scheduling system.
"A typical independent medical practice with five physicians or fewer would usually have no more than 25 or 30 employees," said Bob Keaveney, Editorial Director of Physicians Practice. "That's a small business. They work hard to ensure that patient information is kept safe. But many of these practices lack the manpower, resources, and technical skill to keep up with the government's Byzantine regulations."
In its March cover story, Physicians Practice's Aubrey Westgatedives deeply into the problem and offers guidance to practices on how best to respond.
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