Federal HIPAA Audits Set to Resume in Early 2016

By Matthew J. Effken

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced its intent to move forward with new HIPAA compliance audits in early 2016. The so-called “Phase 2” audits were originally scheduled to commence in 2014, but have been repeatedly delayed.  The OCR reportedly sent preliminary pre-screening surveys to several hundred potential audit targets earlier this year, but there has been no apparent activity since that time.

The upcoming round of audits will include both covered entities and business associates.  There will be a combination of on-site visits and desk audits.  Before the audits can begin, however, the OCR still needs to revise its HIPAA audit protocol and update its information systems to support the audit program.

The OCR’s announcement came in the wake of a highly critical report from the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG)  that highlighted various deficiencies in the OCR’s execution of its HIPAA oversight responsibilities.  Among the shortfalls noted in the report was the OCR’s failure to implement a permanent program of proactive HIPAA audits, as required by federal law. The OCR cited various obstacles, including limited resources, as having delayed the audit program.

The OIG report and the OCR response are available at the following link: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-09-10-00510.pdf.

© 2015 Houghton Vandenack Williams
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