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OCR Launches Information is Powerful Medicine Campaign to Encourage Patients to Access Their Health Data

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of patients’ right to access their health information and the benefits of doing so.

The “Information is Powerful Medicine” campaign informs patients that they have the right to obtain copies of their health data and tells them to “Get it. Check it. Use it.”

The benefits to patients are clear. If they obtain copies of the health information they can check their medical records for errors and correct any mistakes. Having access to health data helps patients to make better decisions about their health care and discuss their health more fully with their providers. Armed with their health data, patients can do more to stay healthy.

Patients are advised that the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows them to obtain a physical or electronic copy of their health data and that their provider should provide the information as requested within 30 days. It has been explained that they may be charged a nominal fee for obtaining a copy of their health data. Patients are also informed that copies of their health data cannot be denied by their providers, even if there is a medical bill outstanding.

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Healthcare providers should encourage their patients to take greater interest in their own healthcare and obtain copies of their health records. OCR has produced a range of resources for healthcare providers to use to achieve this aim, including brochures, web banners, and posters.

The OCR resources can be accessed on this link: HIPAA Right to Access Health Information.

Healthcare providers should make it as easy as possible for patients to request copies of their health data. To make the process as easy as possible, consider using the model PHI request form developed by AHIMA. The form helps healthcare providers streamline the request process and ensure all necessary information is obtained from patients.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.