When must an individual be notified of breach of their PHI?

An individual must be notified of a breach of their Protected Health Information (PHI) without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 days following the discovery of the breach. The notification must be provided in writing and delivered by first-class mail to the individual’s last known address or, if the individual agrees, by email. If the individual’s contact information is insufficient or outdated, organizations must provide substitute notice through alternative methods, such as posting a notice on the entity’s website or through major media outlets. In cases where the breach affects a large number of individuals in a specific jurisdiction, additional notification requirements may apply. It’s crucial for covered entities and business associates to promptly assess and investigate breaches to determine if notification to affected individuals is necessary under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.

The key points of the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule include:

  1. Definition of a Breach: The rule defines a breach as the unauthorized acquisition, access, use, or disclosure of unsecured protected health information (PHI) that compromises the security or privacy of the information.
  2. Notification Requirements: Covered entities must notify affected individuals, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), and potentially the media, depending on the size and nature of the breach. Notification must be provided without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 days following the discovery of the breach.
  3. Content of the Notification: The notification must include a description of the breach, types of information involved, steps individuals should take to protect themselves, actions taken by the covered entity in response to the breach, and contact information for individuals to inquire further.
  4. Methods of Notification: Covered entities must provide written notification to affected individuals through first-class mail, unless the individual has agreed to electronic notification. If contact information is insufficient, substitute notification methods such as posting on the entity’s website or media outlets may be required.
  5. Business Associate Notification: If a breach occurs at the hands of a business associate, they must notify the covered entity of the breach promptly, typically within 60 days of discovery, to enable the covered entity to fulfill its notification obligations.
  6. Breach Assessment: Covered entities are required to conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine the likelihood of harm resulting from the breach. If the assessment determines a low probability of compromised PHI, the covered entity may be exempt from the breach notification requirement.
  7. Documentation: Covered entities must maintain documentation of all breaches, including those that do not require notification, for at least six years. This documentation will be important for HHS audits and compliance purposes.

Complying with the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule is crucial to protect individuals’ privacy and maintain the integrity of PHI. This is why HIPAA breach notifications are important . Covered entities and business associates must have policies and procedures in place to promptly assess, investigate, and respond to breaches while ensuring timely and accurate notification to affected individuals and regulatory authorities.

About Elizabeth Hernandez
Elizabeth Hernandez is a reporter for ComplianceHome. Elizabeth Hernandez is a journalist with a focus on IT compliance and security. She combines her knowledge in information technology and a keen interest in cybersecurity to report on issues related to IT regulations and digital security. Elizabeth's work often touches on topics like GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC 2, exploring how these regulations affect businesses and individuals. Elizabeth emphasizes the significance compliance regulations in digital security and privacy. https://twitter.com/ElizabethHzone