Securing the ‘Security Rule’—Importance of HIPAA Compliance for All Practitioners

Brian Shrift

Brian Shrift

By Brain Shrift, HCISPP

Evidence is mounting that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is beginning to crack down on medical practitioners who aren’t fully compliant with the HIPAA Security Rule.

That’s potentially bad news for many health care organizations that have taken a less than rigorous approach toward compliance. What does it take to become compliant? First, let’s take a brief look at the rule itself.

The Security Rule’s primary objectives are to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of protected health information (PHI).  In plain English, the law was written to ensure adequate safeguards are put in place to ensure patient data is protected from unauthorized access and disclosure, cannot be improperly altered or deleted, and is always accessible when needed.

The HITECH Act of 2009, which required compliance by Sept. 23, 2013, strengthens the civil and criminal enforcement of the Security Rule.  The Security Rule has been in force since 2006, but with minimal penalties for non-compliance there was little incentive to make the investment in compliance.  With the HITECH Act ushering in penalties up to $1.5 million, noncompliance is a costly risk.

[Read more…]

STTI Provides Straightforward Guide for Academic Writing

Step-by-step guide helps nursing students with their dissertation or capstone project

All But Dissertation, or ABD — the dreaded term no PhD or master’s student trying to complete his or her dissertation or capstone project wants to hear. Writing a final paper to earn an advanced degree is a daunting task, even for the most confident candidate. Nurses are no exception.

Karen Roush, PhD, APN, knows more than a thing or two about writing one of these final papers. Her new book A Nurse’s Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Dissertation or Capstone, published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), is a straightforward how-to guide that will help students plan and write the perfect finale to their education. She delves into the fundamentals of exactly what the student needs, with a short, concise guide.

Roush knows that the nursing field rarely prompts students to focus on their writing skills. Her role as a writing mentor with years of experience as an editorial director and clinical managing editor encouraged her to create this clear, highly practical step-by-step guide for the busy student nurse, coaching readers through the scholarly writing process in an engaging, conversational style.

[Read more…]

Advocacy In Nursing

By Verlia M. Brown, MA, RN, BC

In today’s healthcare system, one of the newest phrases is “advocacy in nursing.” What is advocacy? According to Webster’s Dictionary, it is “the act or process of advocating,” or “a public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”

As nurses, we are made aware that our patients benefit from our care and that we must have their best interest at heart and look out for them when delivering quality nursing care. The code for nurses is “do no harm.” In the delivery of nursing care there are certain guidelines, policies, and regulations that nurses must follow as mandated by their institutions and or hospitals. The American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics, their state licensing board’s regulations and the patient’s Bill of Rights also serve as guides.

When patients are hospitalized and often unable to fend for themselves, nurses must protect their rights to quality patient care and intervene for them when care or treatment is compromised, ensuring that patients get the care they deserve. It is the nurse’s prerogative to report and educate the persons involved who might infringe upon the patient’s right to recovery.

[Read more…]

Medicare Specialists of Pittsburgh: An Agency that You Know and Can Trust

m-logo2From time to time, we like to spotlight great organizations across the region. This month we draw your attention to Medicare Specialists of Pittsburgh, an Independent Insurance Agency. They represent many different companies so they can find the one that is right for you. They can shop your insurance for you instead of you having to call around.

Their goal is to provide you with the insurance you want at the lowest possible price, while providing you with the highest level of customer service. They can furnish you with an assessment of your insurance needs and a choice of which package fits you best.

It helps to find an agency that you know and can trust. Their staff has the knowledge and experience of our insurance products to provide maximum benefit and protection to their clients. Let one of their licensed professional insurance agents help you with any of your personal or business insurance needs serving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

For more information, visit


The Future of ACOs

????????By Daniel Casciato

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have long held the promise of better integrated and more efficient healthcare. In concept, it should reduce duplication—and by extension—the cost of managing an episode of care. However, David Pearce, a partner in the Healthcare Practice of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, says a downside is that by aligning vertically with select providers it reduces patient choice.

“By selecting an ACO or by having one selected for you through your health plan, the providers have already been chosen for you,” he says. “Of course, that is already happening to some degree in most existing managed care structures.”

So is the future bright for ACOs or is it doomed to become a failure?

[Read more…]

Changing Healthcare Regulations Increase Need for More Agile Technologies 

Randy HickelBy Randy Hickel

In 2014, new regulations for electronic health records (EHRs) will apply to Medicare and Medicaid providers. To meet these changing regulations and needs, providers need more agile technology to offer patients and government agencies information faster, per the Stage 2 of Meaningful Use criteria. Below are the changes and how you can address them using innovative technology: 

Electronic Documentation: Changing the Process of Practicing Medicine 

Healthcare reform has been a prominent issue impacting millions of patients, providers and businesses across the country. Though debate has intensified recently with healthcare coverage requirements kicking in for the general public, legions of providers have been hard at work for the past five years transitioning to an electronic health record (EHS) system. While more are expected to embrace new technology given its many advantages and to keep pace with social change, federal regulations and incentives have helped spur early adopters in preparation for rigorous new standards.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act were passed, outlining a vision and phased approach to modernize our healthcare system, promote greater portability of medical records, enhance security protections and improve patient care. Since then, the Department of Health and Human Services has provided billions in Medicare and Medicaid incentive funds for eligible hospitals and providers that adopt certified EHR technology. According to a 2013 CDC survey, 48 percent of office-based physicians currently have a basic EHR system in place. The first phase of this implementation, Stage 1, ran from 2011 to 2013 and focused on electronic data capture and sharing.

[Read more…]

Top Ten Things Nurse’s Should Know About Providing End of Life Care

At some point in your nursing career, you will encounter a patient who is dying.  Care for that patient is multi-dimensional and involves not only the patient but the family. Nurses must be skilled clinicians, advocates and above all, guides for patients and families. Here are ten things you need to know.

Patients and Families Trust You

Honest communication is important when caring for a dying patient.  Using open phrases such as “Tell me what you know about your illness,” helps guide patients through difficult discussions. Emphasizing what can be done, rather than what can’t be done instills trust and confidence. Use words such as “We will do everything we can to keep you comfortable,” and “I’ll be here for you.”

Advance Directives are Your Friend

Encourage patients and families to talk about what kind of care they would like at the end-of-life. Questions such as “Have you ever told your family what you would want if you couldn’t speak for yourself?” can open up and important conversation. More importantly, have your own discussion with your family.

[Read more…]

LaRoche Classes Now Forming!

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.48.21 PM

Massachusetts General Hospital Leaders Share Secrets to Improved Patient Care

Top hospital executives explain narrative model in new STTI book

Hospitals are filled with doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who have the utmost respect for science by nature of their profession. At the illustrious Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), these health care professionals also hold in high regard an art form that may seem less than scientific — storytelling.

Using real stories from MGH that demonstrate clinical practice instead of discussing theory, the authors, all top hospital executives at MGH, address the importance of the use of narratives in their new book Fostering Clinical Success: Using Clinical Narratives for Interprofessional Team Partnerships From Massachusetts General Hospital.

Authors Jeanette Ives Erickson, BNP, RN, FAAN; Marianne Ditomassi, DNP, RN, MBA; Susan Sabia, BA; and Mary Ellin Smith, MS, RN, share their model for creating, embedding, and fostering a narrative culture, ultimately creating a safer environment with improved patient care, interprofessional communication, and patient and staff satisfaction. [Read more…]

The Cost of Noncompliance

pbs_300dpi(2)HIPAA Security Rule Audits, Breaches on the Rise

By Shawn Piatek for PrecisionBS

One glance at the headlines on seemingly any given day will yield a significant reality of modern society – our private information is always at risk.

During 2014 alone, Sony, Microsoft and the U.S. Dept. of Justice were among organizations that suffered data breaches. Just last month, Anthem Inc., the country’s second largest health insurance company, suffered a massive breach of up to 80 million customer records.  This alarming rise of hacker activity seems to be one of the reasons the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has increased its activities to assure that health care organizations are complying with HIPAA and the HIPAA Security Rule.

Both HIPAA and the HITECH Act are pieces of federal legislation intended to protect the sensitive Protected Health Information (PHI) of patients of all health care providers. The HITECH Act was enacted in 2009 with the aim of reforming and enhancing HIPAA as well as greatly enhancing the penalties for noncompliance with the HIPAA Security Rule.  The HITECH Act also marked the first time Business Associates could be found directly liable for HIPAA violations and empowered DHHS to begin a program for conducting HIPAA audits.

[Read more…]

Shrift Earns HCISPP Certification

Precision Business Solutions, PrecisionBS, IT solutions provider, Brian Shrift, certification as a HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner, PittsburghPrecision Business Solutions (PrecisionBS), an IT solutions provider, is pleased to announce that Brian Shrift, President, has earned his certification as a HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP).

HCISPPs provide the front-line defense in protecting health information. Backed by (ISC)², a global not-for-profit organization that delivers the gold standard for information security certifications, the HCISPP credential confirms a practitioner’s core knowledge and experience in security and privacy controls for personal health information.

“As we developed a more extensive clientele within the healthcare industry, it became apparent that these customers had needs requiring a more specialized skillset,” Shrift said. “When it comes to healthcare practitioners, the safety and security of the Protected Health Information (PHI) they maintain is a real concern for all of us, myself included.

By gaining this specialized knowledge, we’re raising the bar when it comes to IT Security, which applies to all of our Clients.  And in this age, when every day you hear about a company losing its data or you receive that letter in the mail stating your credit card was compromised, more IT Security is good.”


Shrift earning HCISPP certification is also part of a more than year-long process in which PrecisionBS has engaged in order to create a comprehensive solution for healthcare organizations and their vendors, such as their accountant or attorney, to become compliant with HIPAA Security Rule. This effort included engaging with HIPAA compliance experts within the legal field to assure that all aspects of HIPAA Security Rule were met by one comprehensive solution.

“These laws affect everyone in the healthcare field – from the largest hospital group down to your single-physician, hometown practices,” Shrift said. “The way these laws are written and the requirements they enforce make it necessary to engage specialist within the legal and IT fields to assure compliance. That’s the gap we’re striving to fill.”

For more information contact Precision Business Solutions at (814) 471-0206 or visit us on the Web at


ICD-10 Training Online

PTI is now offering ICD-10 training online.

This course is designed to assist the experienced medical coder in transitioning from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM. The course will provide an Introduction ICD-10-CM, highlight the differences between the two coding systems, and provide guidance for individual chapters. Students who attend all four sessions of this course will be awarded eight continuing education credits which have been approved by the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC). Click on the image to learn more or to register today.

ICD-10, ICD-10 Training, ICD-10 Training Online, AAPC Certified Instructors, ICD-10 Training in Pittsburgh, AAPC CEU Approved

This course will be delivered as a Webinar from 10:00am to 12:00pm on the following dates:

  • Saturday, March 21, 2015
  • Saturday, March 28, 2015
  • Saturday, April 11, 2015
  • Saturday, April 18, 2015

Please note that all four sessions must be attended to earn AAPC approved CEUs. No partial credit will be awarded.

Local Entrepreneur Honored for Dedication to Improving Access to Health Care While Reducing Cost

ZamagiasThe Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation (ACMSF) will present the 2014 Benjamin Rush Individual Award to Michael G. Zamagias, board chairman and CEO of Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies, Inc., during its annual community awards and fundraising gala, Saturday, March 7, 2015 at Heinz Field – East Club Lounge.

Established in 1947, the Benjamin Rush Individual Award recognizes non-healthcare professionals who devote time, skills or resources to assisting others and contribute to the advancement of healthcare.

Mr. Zamagias, majority owner of TeleTracking, has guided the firm from a small startup two decades ago to the world-leading producer of healthcare operations management software solutions and services, which relieve hospital overcrowding, improve patient access and save money. TeleTracking solutions connect to 350,000 beds in over 850 client hospitals in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

[Read more…]

Northside Common Ministries Honored for Providing Quality Social and Healthcare Related Services to Low Income and Homeless

The Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation (ACMSF) will present Northside Common Ministries with a 2014 Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award during its annual community awards and fundraising gala, Saturday, March 7, 2015 at Heinz Field – East Club Lounge.

Established in 1947, the Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award recognizes a company, institution, organization or agency that is successfully addressing a community health issue.

Northside Common Ministries (NCM) is a non-sectarian, non-profit, community based organization that was established in 1982 by a collaboration of 30 independent, local churches.  These individual congregations recognized the plight of economically disadvantaged people in urban communities that became so evident in Pittsburgh after the decline of the steel industry.  These concerned individuals pooled their creative, financial and human resources to form NCM with the purpose of addressing the needs of the hungry and homeless in Pittsburgh and on the Northside in particular. 

[Read more…]

ACHIEVA’s Disability Healthcare Initiative Honored for Improving Access to Health Care for Individuals with Disabilities 

The Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation (ACMSF) will present ACHIEVA and its Disability Healthcare Initiative (DHI) with a 2014 Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award during its annual community awards and fundraising gala, Saturday, March 7, 2015 at Heinz Field – East Club Lounge.

Established in 1947, the Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award recognizes a company, institution, organization or agency that is successfully addressing a community health issue.

ACHIEVA is a not-for-profit organization and is Southwestern Pennsylvania’s largest provider of comprehensive services and supports for people with disabilities and their families.  ACHIEVA serves more than 14,600 individuals with disabilities and their families and is the only agency of its type in Southwestern PA that provides lifelong supports.  ACHIEVA provides a full spectrum of services for people of all ages and abilities and their families, from early intervention therapies for infants to in-home support for medically fragile senior citizens.

[Read more…]