Sharp HealthCare Pays $70,000 to Resolve HIPAA Right of Access Violation

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has fined Sharp HealthCare $70,000 for failing to provide a patient with timely access to his medical records. This is the sixteenth financial penalty to be agreed with OCR under the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative that was launched in late 2019.

OCR received a complaint from a patient on June 11, 2019 that alleged Sharp Healthcare, doing business as Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers (SRMC), failed to provide him with a copy of his medical records within 30 days, as is required by the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

The patient claimed to have made a request in writing on April 2, 2019 but had not been provided with the requested records after waiting more than 2 months. OCR investigated and provided technical assistance to SRMC on the HIPAA Right of Access provision of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the requirement to send medical records to a third party if requested by a patient. OCR closed the complaint on June 25, 2019.

The same patient filed a second complaint with OCR on August 19, 2019 when the requested medical records had still not been provided. The complainant finally received the requested records on October 15, 2019, more than 6 months after the record request was initially made.

OCR determined the long delay in providing the requested records was in violation of 45 C.F.R. § 164.524 and the HIPAA violation warranted a financial penalty. Had the records been provided in a timely manner after receiving technical assistance, a financial penalty could have been avoided.

In addition to paying the $70,000 penalty, Sharp HealthCare has agreed to adopt a corrective action plan and will be monitored closely for compliance by OCR for 2 years. The corrective action plan requires Sharp HealthCare to develop, maintain, and revise, as necessary, policies and procedures covering patient requests for access to their medical records and training must be provided to the workforce on individuals’ right to access their own PHI.

In an announcement about the latest settlement, Acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese said, “Patients are entitled to timely access to their medical records. OCR created the Right of Access Initiative to enforce and support this critical right.”

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.