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Breach Notification Rule

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates to provide notification following a breach of unsecured protected health information (PHI).

What is a "Breach"?

HIPAA defines a "breach" as, generally, an impermissible use or disclosure under the Privacy Rule that compromises the security or privacy of the PHI. 

An impermissible use or disclosure of PHI is presumed to be a breach unless the covered entity or business associate demonstrates that there is a low probability that the PHI has been compromised, based on a risk assessment of at least the following factors:

  1. The nature and extent of the PHI involved, including the types of identifiers and the likelihood of re-identification;
  2. The unauthorized person who used the PHI or to whom the disclosure was made;
  3. Whether the PHI was actually acquired or viewed; and
  4. The extent to which the risk to the PHI has been mitigated.

There are three exceptions to the HIPAA definition of breach:

  1. The unintentional acquisition, access, or use of PHI made in good faith and within the scope of authority.
  2. The inadvertent disclosure of PHI by a person authorized to access PHI to another person authorized to access PHI at the same covered entity or business associate.
  3. If the covered entity or business associate has a good faith belief that the unauthorized person to whom the disclosure was made would not have been able to retain the information.  

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