Filed Under:Health Insurance, Ltci

Office preps for HIPAA privacy audits

A light installation designed to represent cloud computing. (AP photo/Joerg Sarbach)
A light installation designed to represent cloud computing. (AP photo/Joerg Sarbach)

An arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is getting ready to verify how well insurers, insurance agencies and other organizations that handle personal health information are protecting the information.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights is organizing a survey to get the information it needs to conduct Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy audits.

HIPAA privacy rules affect many different types of "covered entities," such as health plans, and "business associates."

The term "business associates" could refer to agents who collect health information while helping clients with products such as life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance as well as major medical insurance.

The Office of Civil Rights is hoping the upcoming survey will help it understand the size and complexity of the organizations subject to the HIPAA privacy rules, and how well the organizations are equipped to respond to an audit.

The office will ask 1,200 organizations to fill out the survey, according to a routine paperwork review notice set to appear in the Federal Register Monday.

"Information collected includes, among other things, recent data about the number of patient visits or insured lives, use of electronic information, revenue, and business locations," officials say in the notice.

HHS paperwork burden analysts expect filling out the survey to take an average of about half an hour. 

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