HIPAA-covered entities reported 609 breaches of unsecured protected health information in calendar year 2021, 7% fewer than in 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) told Congress Friday in its latest annual report on the issue. As in previous years, hacking and information technology incidents were the most common type of breach, with the largest incident affecting almost 3.3 million people. The report recommends regulated entities continue to improve compliance with the HIPAA Rules, particularly the Security Rule standards and the risk analysis, risk management, information system activity review, audit control and access control implementation specifications. OCR also released its annual report to Congress on compliance with the HIPAA breach notification rule, which found a 25% increase in complaints alleging HIPAA or HITECH Act violations in 2021.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 requires HIPAA-covered entities to notify HHS after discovering a breach of unsecured PHI, defined as PHI that is not secured using a technology or methodology specified in HHS guidance to render it unusable, unreadable or indecipherable to unauthorized persons. OCR investigates all reported breaches affecting at least 500 people and may review smaller breaches.