March 1 Deadline for Small Healthcare Data Breach Notification Approaches

The official deadline for reporting 2016 healthcare data breaches which impacted fewer than 500 people is March 1, 2017.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s Breach Notification Rule states that all covered bodies must report breaches of unsecured electronic protected health information to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

While large data breaches – those impacting 500 or more people – must be made known to OCR within 60 days of the discovery of the breach, covered bodies can delay the reporting of smaller data breaches.

While patients must be made aware of any breach of their ePHI within 60 days – regardless of the number of individuals affected by the data breach – notifications of the smaller level of security incidents are not required to be made known to the OCR until 60 days after the end of the calendar year in which the data breaches were identified.

As with larger data breaches, all smaller incidents must be filed via the OCR breach reporting tool. While smaller data breaches can be reported in a group submission, each breach must be filed in the breach reporting tool separately along with any supporting information required.

Even if the complete details of the breach are not yet known, covered bodies should submit initial reports before the March 1 deadline. An addendum can be added to the breach report later when additional information becomes available.

It is recommended to designate the reporting of breaches to one individual and for the process of uploading the breach reports to begin as soon as possible. Covered bodies should not wait until February 28 or March 1 to file their breach reports. The late reporting of healthcare data breaches would constitute a violation of the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, and as we have already wiitnessed this year, fines for late breach notifications can be – and are – issued.