The Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced on August 18, 2016 that it is stepping up enforcement actions related to small breaches. Although OCR investigates all reported breaches affecting more than 500 people, this new initiative will increase investigations of breaches affecting fewer than 500 people. As OCR recognizes, it is often only through investigations following a reported breach that OCR uncovers more widespread HIPAA compliance issues, and it is those additional issues that often lead to monetary settlements or fines. Particularly given this increased enforcement initiative, covered entities and business associates should continue to evaluate and, where appropriate, strengthen their HIPAA compliance efforts.
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