On January 17, 2013, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the final omnibus rule that among other things (1) increases patient privacy protections; (2) provides individuals with new rights to receive a copy of their electronic medical record in an electronic form;  and (3) provides individuals with the right to instruct their provider not to share their information about their treatment with their health plan when they pay in cash.  The new rule formally expands patient privacy and security requirements to business associates, contractors and subcontractors.  The rule also strengthens the government’s ability to enforce the law with increased penalties for noncompliance based on the level of negligence.  Penalties are increased up to a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per violation.

In announcing the new patient privacy protections, HHS Secretary Sebelius recognized that “Much has changed in health care since HIPAA was enacted over fifteen years ago.” “The new rule will help protect patient privacy and safeguard patients’ health information in an ever expanding digital age.”

The 563 page rule can be viewed in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.  HHS’s announcement of the rule is found at http://www.hhs.gov/news/.

More to follow as we dig deeper into the new privacy and security requirements.