On February 22, 2010, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) posted on its website its first list of covered entities that have reported breaches of unsecured protected health information affecting more than 500 individuals. OCR acknowledged the HITECH Act requires HHS to make this information public by posting it on an HHS website.

The breach notification rule became effective on September 23, 2009. In short, as we reported previously, the rule requires covered entities to provide notification of breaches of unsecured protected health information directly to the Secretary of HHS, as well as to the affected individuals. Breaches that affect 500 or more individuals must be reported to HHS within 60 days, and covered entities must provide this notification via the online form on the OCR website.

Of course, covered entities need to be aware that breaches reported to HHS will be made public on its site. Some states, such as Maryland and New Hampshire, have had a similar policy in effect for some time for breaches of personal information affecting residents of their states.