Day: October 11, 2007

42 Questions HHS Might Ask During a HIPAA Audit

Some recent projects have touched on HIPAA lately and I thought I'd post on this Computerworld story about hapless Piedmont Hospital. They were the first hospital in to be audited by the Office of the Inspector General at the department of Health and Human Services for compliance with HIPAA security rules (emphasis mine). The audit was conducted by the office of the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) and is being seen by some in the health care industry as a precursor of similar audits to come at other institutions. Neither Piedmont nor HHS officials have publicly confirmed the audit or spoken about it. That silence has sparked considerable curiosity about why Piedmont was targeted as well as the scope of the audit and the kind of information HHS was seeking. How mysterious. Even more mysterious, Computerworld managed to get a copy of the 42 items that HHS officials wanted information on - within 10 days. Specifically, the feds wanted documentation on the policies and procedures for the following: Establishing and terminating users' access to systems housing electronic patient health information (ePHI). Emergency access to electronic information systems. Inactive computer sessions (periods of inactivity). Recording and examining activity in information systems that contain or use ePHI. Risk assessments and analyses of relevant information systems that house or process ePHI data. Employee violations (sanctions)....

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ED Overcrowding Worsening, Cost One Hospital More Than $1,000 per Hour

A recent survey of ED docs indicates that they believe that ED overcrowding is getting worse. From the Modern Healthcare story: In a survey of nearly 1,500 practicing emergency physicians, more than 80% said crowded conditions in their emergency departments had increased either slightly (40.2%) or significantly (42.4%) in the past year, according to a recent poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians. In the study, conducted from Aug. 28 to Sept. 19, nearly 67% of respondents cited "not enough staffing and/or resources" as their leading concern about patient care.Other top concerns included decreased throughput in the emergency department because of boarding patients (65.4%) and long wait times (65.3%). Also, 40.4% of physicians said their emergency-care environment has overcrowding and that access to specialty physicians and similar practice issues is a concern, but not yet a crisis. Of those who responded, 703, or about 47%, said they had experienced a patient suffering as a result of crowded emergency rooms, while 200 said they had experienced a patient death for this reason at some point. First off, while quantitative percentages are quoted extensively, this is really just a survey on the opinions of emergency room physicians. As noted a couple days ago, actual operational data is much harder to come by. Certainly the emotional assessment of front line physicians on ER overcrowding has value, but it is certainly not...

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