OCR Announces 9th Financial Penalty under its HIPAA Right of Access Initiative

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The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is continuing its crackdown on healthcare providers that are not fully complying with the HIPAA right of access. Last week, OCR announced its ninth enforcement action against a HIPAA-covered entity for the failure to provide patients with timely access to their medical records at a reasonable cost.

HIPAA gives patients the right to view or receive a copy of their medical records. When a request is made for access to medical records, HIPAA-covered entities must provide access or supply a copy of the requested medical records as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after the request is received.

By obtaining a copy of their medical records, patients can share those records with other providers, research organizations, or individuals of their choosing. Patients can check their medical records for errors and submit requests to correct any mistakes. In the event of a ransomware attack that renders medical records inaccessible, patients who have a copy of their records ensure that their health histories are never lost.

Under the OCR HIPAA Right of Access Initiative, complaints from individuals who have been denied access to their medical records or have faced delays in receiving a copy of their records are investigated. When violations of the HIPAA right of access are uncovered, financial penalties are issued. The aim of penalties is to encourage compliance by making noncompliance very costly.

The latest financial penalty was imposed on NY Spine, a private medical practice with offices in New York and Miami that specializes in neurology and pain management. OCR received a complaint from a patient in July 2019 who claimed to have sent multiple requests to NY Spine in June 2019 requesting a copy of her protected health information.

NY Spine responded to the requests and provided some of her records but failed to provide the diagnostic films that she had specifically requested. It took intervention from OCR for NY Spine to provide those records. The patient was finally provided with a complete copy of all the requested records in October 2020, 16 months after the first request was submitted.

NY Spine and OCR agreed to settle the case for $100,000. NY Spine is also required to adopt a corrective action plan and will be monitored by OCR for compliance for 2 years.

“No one should have to wait over a year to get copies of their medical records.  HIPAA entitles patients to timely access to their records and we will continue our stepped up enforcement of the right of access until covered entities get the message,” said Roger Severino, OCR Director.

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.

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