The Office of the National Coordinator – the agency behind Meaningful Use and MACRCA / MIPS, is facing a 37% budget cut ($22M) in 2018. The National Coordinator of the ONC, Don Rucker, MD, is going to deal with that budget cut by eliminating the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer and outsourcing the HITECH-mandated Privacy function to the Office of Civil Rights, an HHS entity responsible for ensuring HIPAA adherence and prosecuting violators.
In the past, the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer served to address privacy from a policy perspective – an arena in which to discuss privacy issues without an enforcer / regulator in the room.
This new configuration is likely to alter the texture of the office from one of collaborative investigation and data gathering for the purpose of building better policy to one of enforcement and punishment. The OCR’s primary function is to investigate infractions and prosecute data breaches.
Will this move deter people from turning to HHS for help with their security concerns?
Will members of the community equate the elimination of the ONC’s Privacy Office to heavy-handed oversight and punishment?
Is this move perhaps akin to assigning social service functions to the police department?
Time will tell.
In the meantime, make sure you’re having (AND DOCUMENTING!) regular HIPAA training and review classes in your clinic. Make sure you have a HIPAA manual, that it is current and that everyone in your clinic knows where it is.
Be safe out there.