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January 2015

As HIPAA audits approach, small practices remain unprepared

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights will launch its first formal round of HIPAA audits. They will hit around 400 healthcare providers. Are they ready? Will they show compliance? What happens if they don't? What can they do to prepare?

This issue of Pulse aims to answer those questions. It turns out that while many hospitals are ready for OCR inspectors, most solo doctors and small physician practices aren't. OCR isn't saying what the penalties will be, but many industry observers say the noncompliant physicians and healthcare systems face hefty penalties. "Pity the poor guy who got selected," said Daniel Brown, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in healthcare law, in reporter Shaun Sutner's cover story.

But Sutner reports that unprepared doctors and practices shouldn't throw their arms up, even as HIPAA audits loom. There's a lot they can do to show compliance. First, they need a plan specific to them, not something off the shelf.

Sutner also delivers a dispatch from the Radiological Society of North America's Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting. He talked to attendees about whether it's worth it for radiologists to work toward meeting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' meaningful use attestation. CMS allowed radiologists to opt out of the program about a year ago, and many remain skeptical of it. But some say that while attesting is not an easy fit for radiology, it's a good goal, as it has brought about advancements in health IT before -- such as the widespread use of EHRs and patient portals.

Also in the issue, reporter Beth Pariseau learns why healthcare software provider IMS Health switched from Microsoft Azure to a partnership with Amazon Web Servers, Sutner gets tips on migrating EHR data the easy way and resident health IT expert Reda Chouffani explores the uneasiness over new federal requirements for physicians and teaching hospitals to report gifts by manufacturers of drugs and medical supplies.

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