For Immediate Release - October 25, 2012

Physicians Receive Training and Education in Data Privacy Protection

AG’s Office Partners with Massachusetts Medical Society at Event in Waltham; Funding Provided by Settlement of Hospital Data Breach Case

WALTHAM – Seeking to educate physicians about the importance of protecting consumer health information and the critical issues of data security, Attorney General Martha Coakley is partnering with industry groups to bring awareness to the legal requirements, enforcement efforts and best practices that can be used in light of recent data breaches. 

AG Coakley delivered opening remarks today at a first-of-its-kind data privacy training, sponsored jointly by the AG’s Office and the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS). The free event, held at the MMS headquarters in Waltham, was supported by funds from a settlement with South Shore Hospital over a 2010 data breach.

“Sharing of health care data is a critical piece to improving care and streamlining costs, but we must do so in a way that protects patients’ privacy,” AG Coakley said. “This training is designed to help us do just that, and put in place best practices throughout the medical community. I want to thank the Massachusetts Medical Society for their partnership in holding this training.”

This event was the first in a series of trainings focused on health care entities, and included remarks by Christie Hager, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with other state, federal and private sector practitioners. 

“Education of providers is an important focus of the work of our colleagues in the Office for Civil Rights,” Hager said.  “Today’s training is yet another example of the effectiveness of our work together, across all sectors of partners.”

“This program reflects some of the profound changes taking place in the practice of medicine,” said Richard Aghababian, M.D., President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “It’s vital for physicians and health providers to be up-to-date on the latest in the security of patient data, particularly as we move more and more toward electronic health records. Privacy and the protection of an individual’s health information is an important part of the physician-patient relationship. We are pleased to be part of a program such as this.”

The Continuing Medical Education (CME) accredited training focused on physician practice groups and provided an overview of HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, Security Rule and Breach Notification Rule, as well as the Massachusetts state data privacy security laws. The training also addressed data privacy enforcement, including enforcement and investigation conducted by the AG’s Office and concluded with an expert perspective on best practices and steps physicians can take to protect patient information.

This educational effort is a counterpart to AG Coakley’s enforcement in the area of data privacy.  In May 2012, AG Coakley settled a lawsuit against South Shore Hospital for $750,000 to resolve allegations that it failed to protect the personal and confidential health information of more than 800,000 consumers. Funds from the settlement are being used to support AG Coakley’s training and educational efforts to prevent data breaches in the health care industry in Massachusetts.

The AG’s Office plans to develop a similar program – focused on hospitals and hospital administrators – with the Massachusetts Hospital Association, and expects to partner with other health care focused organizations to continue its data privacy education efforts throughout the health care industry.

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