May 6, 2019
Tennessee diagnostic medical imaging services company pays $3,000,000 to settle breach exposing over 300,000 patients’ protected health information
Touchstone Medical Imaging (“Touchstone”) has agreed to pay $3,000,000 to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and to adopt a corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security and Breach Notification Rules. Touchstone, based in Franklin, Tennessee, provides diagnostic medical imaging services in Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Arkansas.
In May 2014, Touchstone was notified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and OCR that one of its FTP servers allowed uncontrolled access to its patients’ protected health information (PHI). This uncontrolled access permitted search engines to index the PHI of Touchstone’s patients, which remained visible on the Internet even after the server was taken offline.
Touchstone initially claimed that no patient PHI was exposed. However, during OCR’s investigation, Touchstone subsequently admitted that the PHI of more than 300,000 patients was exposed including names, birth dates, social security numbers, and addresses. OCR’s investigation found that Touchstone did not thoroughly investigate the security incident until several months after notice of the breach from both the FBI and OCR. Consequently, Touchstone’s notification to individuals affected by the breach was also untimely. OCR’s investigation further found that Touchstone failed to conduct an accurate and thorough risk analysis of potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all of its electronic PHI (ePHI), and failed to have business associate agreements in place with its vendors, including their IT support vendor and a third-party data center provider as required by HIPAA.
“Covered entities must respond to suspected and known security incidents with the seriousness they are due, especially after being notified by two law enforcement agencies of a problem,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “Neglecting to have a comprehensive, enterprise-wide risk analysis, as illustrated by this case, is a recipe for failure.”
In addition to the monetary settlement, Touchstone will undertake a robust corrective action plan that includes the adoption of business associate agreements, completion of an enterprise-wide risk analysis, and comprehensive policies and procedures to comply with the HIPAA Rules.
The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/tmi/index.html.