And it is worth sanitizing.
On August 14, 2013, HHS announced a settlement with Affinity Health Plan, Inc. after investigating the finding of sensitive health data stored on copier hard drives.
Affinity Health Plan, a not-for-profit managed care plan serving the New York metropolitan area, was informed by CBS Evening News that CBS had purchased a photocopier previously used by Affinity that contained confidential medical information on the hard drive. Affinity turned around and reported this breach to the HHS Office for Civil Rights on April 15, 2010. Affinity estimated that up to 344,579 individuals may have been affected by the breach.
OCR reports that its investigation revealed that Affinity impermissibly disclosed the protected health information of these individuals when it returned multiple photocopiers to leasing agents without erasing the data contained on the copier hard drives. Affinity and OCR negotiated a settlement, which included a $1.2 million payment and “a corrective action plan requiring Affinity to use its best efforts to retrieve all hard drives that were contained on photocopiers previously leased by the plan that remain in the possession of the leasing agent, and to take certain measures to safeguard all ePHI.”
See HHS press release: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/08/20130814a.html
- Electronic Health Records – Help or Hurt?
An article in The New England Journal of Medicine examines whether current proposals in the U.S. health care system may unintentionally be at odds with promoting competition in health care markets. In particular, the authors opine that efforts to promote integrated, coordinated care can generate incentives for provider consolidation that may reduce competition — citing the ACO initiative as an example. ACO’s may take the form of vertical integration — hospitals acquiring physician groups; or horizontal integation — the merger of two hospitals. This, the authors, Katherine Baicker and Helen Levy, argue reduces competition (which is why there is scrutiny from FTC, they note, and from CMS). With respect to EHRs, specifically, the authors caution that “the use of electronic health records, can in theory promote both competition and coordination, but only if they are implemented well.” They then use as an example interoperable health IT, which could lock patients in to their current providers or provider networks.
See the article at:
As noted in earlier posts, some commentators also worry that only the biggest health care entities will benefit from integrated IT systems, which are supposed to seemlessly and safely share patient data among and between providers or health care payors.