The Department of Health and Human Service’ Office for Civil Rights has recently announced a further 11 financial penalties to HIPAA-regulated entities who have failed to provide patients with timely access to their medical records. The announcement comes as a warning to all covered entities regarding the importance of adhering to the HIPAA Right of Access Law.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, all health organizations who are subject to its rules must provide their patients with access to their protected health information. This information includes any individually identifiable information such as name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, driver’s license numbers, and medical information. The patients may access their protected health information for errors and request corrections from the entity. When a request is made, the data must be presented within 30 days of the request. These requests can be issued by the patients themselves, family members, or their nominated representatives.
HIPAA Law’s primary enforcer, the Office for Civil Rights, introduced its HIPAA Right of Access enforcement campaign in response to information indicating extensive violations within the healthcare industry. As a result of the initiative, the Office for Civil Rights began to issue enforcement actions for non compliant entities. These include financial penalties and corrective action plan orders.
The noncompliant covered entities named in the announcement include ACPM Podiatry, Memorial Hermann Health System, Southwest Surgical Associates, Hillcrest Nursing and Rehabilitation, Melrose Wakefield Healthcare, Erie County Medical Center Corporation, Fallbrook Family Health Center, Associated Retina Specialists, Coastal Ear, Nose, and Throat, Lawrence Bell, Jr, D.D.A, and Danbruy Psychiatric Consultants. The financial penalties issued ranged from $3,500 to $240,000 for untimely access. ACPM Podiatry were ordered to pay a civil monetary penalty as they refused to cooperate with the Office for Civil Rights.
The Office’s Director, Lisa J. Pino has stressed the importance of compliance to HIPAA. She states “It should not take a federal investigation before a HIPAA-covered entity provides patients, or their personal representatives, with access to their medical records. Health care organizations should take note that there are now 38 enforcement actions in our Right of Access Initiative and understand that OCR is serious about upholding the law and peoples’ fundamental right to timely access to their medical records”. As of July 2022, 122 financial penalties have been issued by the Office for Civil Rights since 2008.