Is a covered entity liable for, or required to monitor, the actions of its business associates?
No. The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires covered entities to enter into written contracts or other arrangements with business associates which protect the privacy of protected health information; but covered entities are not required to monitor or oversee the means by which their business associates carry out privacy safeguards or the extent to which the business associate abides by the privacy requirements of the contract. Nor is the covered entity responsible or liable for the actions of its business associates. However, if a covered entity finds out about a material breach or violation of the contract by the business associate, it must take reasonable steps to cure the breach or end the violation, and, if unsuccessful, terminate the contract with the business associate. If termination is not feasible (e.g., where there are no other viable business alternatives for the covered entity), the covered entity must report the problem to the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. See 45 CFR 164.504(e)(1).
With respect to business associates, a covered entity is considered to be out of compliance with the Privacy Rule if it fails to take the steps described above. If a covered entity is out of compliance with the Privacy Rule because of its failure to take these steps, further disclosures of protected health information to the business associate are not permitted. In cases where a covered entity is also a business associate, the covered entity is considered to be out of compliance with the Privacy Rule if it violates the satisfactory assurances it provided as a business associate of another covered entity.