ANN ARBOR — A tiny USB drive stolen from the car of an Alaska health worker wound up costing the state of Alaska $1.7 million in federal fines last July. Will your organization be protected when enforcement of health privacy laws skyrockets in 2013?
Online Tech announced today it is the first data center operator to have its data centers and cloud computing infrastructure voluntarily audited to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights HIPAA Audit Protocol.
“For the Department of Health and Human Services and OCR this isn’t a joking matter anymore – you will comply,’’ said Nate Buchholz, information services director at Genesys Physician Hospital Organization (PHO). “We have five (full time employees) all dedicated to securing our infrastructure. Online Tech is our data center colocation partner: they keep our lights on.’’
With the federal enforcement soaring in 2013, Buchholz said health providers are turning to Online Tech because “they take security seriously.’’
“We provide cloud hosting for healthcare clients from across the country,” said Mike Klein, CEO of Online Tech. “These clients need the assurance that the data centers and the cloud infrastructure where they are hosting PHI (Protected Health Information) are audited to the requirements of HHS and Office for Civil Rights. None of our clients want to be fined by the Office for Civil Rights because their hosting provider failed to live up to the OCR audit requirements.”
UHY Advisors, LLP recently completed Online Tech’s independent third-party HIPAA attestation on the company’s cloud infrastructure and all three data centers. Online Tech and UHY agreed to use the newly established OCR guidelines that all healthcare and health IT companies will face from the Office of Civil Rights starting in 2013.
Online Tech is not a covered entity, but rather a business associate (an organization providing a service to a covered entity). Although the initial audit program only applies to covered entities, Online Tech decided to proceed with an independent attestation using the new guidelines.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requires the Department of Health and Human Services to perform periodic audits of covered entities and business associates to determine if they are complying with HIPAA requirements. A November 2011 to December 2012 HHS Office for Civil Rights pilot program selected 115 organizations across the country to undergo the scrutiny of privacy, security, and breach notification audits by KPMG.
The OCR does not plan to penalize targets for pilots unless they uncover “serious compliance issues.” The HITECH Act has civil penalties for HIPAA violations that can reach $50,000 per violation and up to $1.5 million for identical violations across multiple records in a single calendar year.
In June 2012, the OCR released a copy of the protocol it is using to audit HIPAA compliance under their pilot program. The protocol provides a breakdown of specific audit criteria they are using for HIPAA audits. The protocol includes 169 specific performance criteria organized around compliance in three areas: the HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification Rule.
HIPAA data center compliance is no small investment. Data center operators must not only deliver the technology to meet the administrative, physical and technical safeguards required by the HIPAA security rule, they must also invest in policies, training, breach notification processes, legal support for business associates agreements, and HIPAA insurance. In addition, the organization must commit to consistently monitoring the safeguards and processes to ensure the security of the electronic protected health information (ePHI).
In 2011, Online Tech became the first data center operator to be independently audited for HIPAA compliance. This year, Online Tech decided it wanted to be the first data center operator independently audited against the OCR HIPAA Audit Program Protocol.
“It was a commitment and investment we knew we had to make to serve the best interest of our healthcare clients,” Klein said.
Online Tech leads in secure, compliant hosting services including cloud hosting, managed dedicated servers, Michigan colocation and disaster recovery. Online Tech’s Midwest data centers assure mission critical applications are always available, comply with government & industry regulations, and continue operating after a disaster. Backed by independent HIPAA, PCI, SSAE 16, and SOC 2, Online Tech delivers the security, privacy, and availability expected from world class data center operators.