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Risk Assessments: the Achilles Heel of most private practices

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The Office of Civil Rights, which enforces HIPPA and HITECH, conducted a pilot audit program in 2012. This program determined that risk assessments were a weak spot for healthcare entities of all types and sizes, but especially for smaller organizations. During 2013 numerous providers reported that not only were the OCR audits focusing on risk assessments, but now EHR Meaningful Use audits were also concentrating on proper documentation of risk assessments. When found to be deficient, not only were they denying the incentive payments for the current year, but when documentation was not available, they were also recouping incentive monies from the previous year as well.

Numerous chiropractic offices over several states have now reported that this has occurred. This can represent tens of thousands of dollars taken back from chiropractic offices without the fines that can then be added on top of the recoupment. From a compliance standpoint, the facility’s risk assessment is addressed in almost every regulatory requirement we have today. Whether it’s HIPAA, HITECH, or meaningful use, every facility should be performing a thorough risk assessments this is the foundation of protecting patient data. This assessment should be taken very seriously and performed on an annual basis.

During the spring of 2013, my office was selected for a Meaningful Use audit. From first-hand experience, I know that the auditors are requesting full documentation to support the attestation that a risk assessment had been completed of the facility and our operational policies and procedures. Simply saying you have completed a risk assessment is not sufficient. They require documentation that demonstrates a complete evaluation of the facility physical operations as well as a review of the policies and procedures utilized to ensure the safety of our patient information. As we have been taught, if it isn’t written down, it never happened.

The OCR is expected to resume their HIPAA compliance audits in the next few weeks. Your state association has sought means to help you in avoiding loss of your EHR incentive payments as well as the extremely high fines that can be levied by securing a Risk Assessment form that you can download for free. This form was professionally produced for the typical chiropractic office and when completed will provide you with sufficient documentation to verify that your office has performed a thorough risk assessment. 

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