The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services has published a notice detailing how it will use information from organizations reporting breaches of protected health information.

The breach notification rule requires reporting to OCR within 60 days of breaches affecting 500 or more individuals, with smaller breaches reported annually. Under the federal Privacy Act, OCR must notify the public of changes in how it collects and uses information. The notice, published April 13 in the Federal Register, details modifications to a "system of records," in particular, a computer system called the Program Information Management System (PIMS).

Some of the changes already are underway as OCR has been collecting breach reports since September 2009 and has in recent months been listing large breaches on its Web site. The notice explains new "routine uses" of the PIMS that permit OCR to collect and list large breaches, as well as collect reports of smaller breaches, and collect and disseminate data necessary in breach investigations, reports to Congress and development of training and guidance materials.

The notice of modified uses of PIMS will become effective following a 40-day comment period commencing on April 13, unless OCR receives comments that require alterations. The notice is available at

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