The recently enacted Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act, which amends various aspects of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), including the associated Privacy and Security Rules, marks a significant change in how covered entities and their business associates must respond to security breaches under HIPAA.

On August 24, 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued its interim final rule (“the Rule”) regarding a covered entity’s obligation to notify individuals when their unsecured protected health information (“PHI”) is breached. Furthermore, and depending on the nature of the security breach, the Rule also requires a more global notification whereby covered entities must post information regarding certain breaches in newspapers and on the HHS website.

The HHS Rule is effective on September 23, 2009, however, HHS will not impose sanctions for failure to provide the required notices for breaches that are discoverable before February 22, 2010.

For additional details, read the full alert.