Ciitizen HIPAA Right of Access Study Shows Significant Improvement in Compliance

There has been a significant improvement in compliance with the HIPAA Right of Access, according to the latest Patient Record Scorecard Report from Ciitizen.

To compile the report, Ciitizen conducted a study of 820 healthcare providers to assess how well each responded to patient requests for copies of their healthcare data. A wide range of healthcare providers were assessed for the study, from single physician practices to large, integrated healthcare delivery systems.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule gives patients the right to request a copy of their healthcare data from their providers. Request must be submitted in writing and healthcare providers are required to provide the patient with a copy of the health data in a designated record set within 30 days to the request being submitted. The data must be provided in the format requested by the patient if the PHI is readily producible in that format. In cases where data cannot be provided in the requested format, the provider should give the patient a printed copy of their healthcare data or provide the data in an alternative format, as agreed with the patient.

For each study, requests for copies of healthcare data are sent to healthcare providers by Ciitizen users. The provider then receives a rating from 1-5 based on their response. A 1-star rating represents a non-HIPAA-compliant response. 2-stars are awarded when requests are eventually resolved satisfactorily, but only after multiple escalations to supervisors. A 3-star rating is given when the request is satisfied with minimal intervention, and a 4-star rating is given to providers that are fully compliant and have a seamless response. A 5-star rating is reserved for providers with a patient-focused process who go above and beyond the requirements of HIPAA.

Previous studies revealed a majority of providers (51%) were not compliant with the HIPAA Right of Access. The latest study saw that percentage fall to 27%. The percentage of providers awarded 4 stars for their responses increased from 40% to 67%, and the percentage of providers awarded 5 stars increased from 20% to 28%.

There was further good news from this year’s study. Under HIPAA, healthcare providers are permitted to charge patients a reasonable, cost-based fee for producing the records, but only 6% of the 820 healthcare providers charged fees.

In previous studies, many healthcare providers required patients to complete a standard form, yet this year, most providers accepted any form of written request and did not require patients to complete a particular form before the request was processed.

The latest study saw a significant increase in assessments, which may have accounted, in part, for the improvements in compliance. 51 providers were assessed for the first Patient Record Scorecard report, 210 in the second, and 820 in the third. Ciitizen points out that the percentage of non-compliant providers in those studies did correlate with a separate study conducted on 3,000 providers, which suggests that the improvements made are genuine.

Ciitizen attributes the improvements in compliance to three main factors. A greater emphasis has been placed on the right of individuals to obtain copies of their healthcare data following the publication of new rules by the HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, which make it easier for patients to obtain copies of their healthcare data.

There has also bee a positive influence of release of information (ROI) vendors. ROI vendors process patient requests on behalf of covered entities and help those entities comply with the HIPAA Right of Access. Finally, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights launched a HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative last year. Under that initiative, two penalties of $85,000 were imposed on covered entities that failed to comply with requests from patients to provide copies of their PHI.

The Ciitizen Patient Record Scorecard Reports and the website sit up by Ciitizen that shows the scores of each provider may also have played a role in encouraging healthcare providers to comply with this important aspect of HIPAA.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.