During a media roundtable held this week, the Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Jocelyn Samuels provided additional information regarding the long awaited next round of audits for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  Specifically, she said that audits will be implemented “expeditiously” and will be governed by new audit guidelines.

As we previously informed you, the HIPAA audit program was piloted in 2012.  Recently, OCR has been postponing phase two of the program due to issues including staffing and funding shortages.  However, Samuels encouraged entities covered by HIPAA to monitor the OCR website in the coming weeks for updates on when the audit program will resume.

Samuels also discussed OCR’s recent uptick in HIPAA compliance investigations.  Since 2012, OCR has executed 16 resolution agreements including both monetary settlements and corrective action plans with entities that allegedly violated HIPAA.  “While this represents a very small fraction of the complaints that OCR investigates and compliance reviews that OCR initiates, this is an increase in the number of high-impact cases that OCR resolved through resolution agreements and corrective action plans over previous years,” Samuels said.