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Final Breach Notification Rule for Electronic Health Information Issued by FTC

As required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently issued a final rule pertaining to breach notification when health information is compromised by Web-based businesses. The rule requires “vendors of health records and related entities to notify consumers following a breach involving unsecured information.”  Additionally, it provides more information on the “timing, method, and content of [the] notification” and requires a notice to the media in breaches where 500 or more people are affected. 

Web-based health services allow patients to more easily view and track their records.  Services may include technology that transfers readings from blood pressure cuffs or pedometers directly to a patient’s online record. According to the FTC, many of these services are not subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations. In order to promote and protect patient confidentiality, the ARRA legislation mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) work with the FTC on studying and issuing a report on privacy, security, and breach-notification requirements for health record vendors not subject to HIPAA.  The HHS report is due in February 2010.  In the meantime, however, the FTC rule is meant to fill the void until a more complete study takes place. 

For more information, please see the FTC’s press release here. 

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