Study Reveals Widespread Noncompliance with HIPAA Right of Access

A recent study conducted by the health manuscript archiving company medRxiv has revealed widespread noncompliance with the HIPAA right of access.

For the study, the researchers sent medical record requests to 51 healthcare providers and assessed the experience of obtaining those records. The companies were also assessed on their response versus the requirements of HIPAA.

In each case, the record request was a legitimate request for access to patient data. The requests were made to populate a new consumer platform that helps patients obtain their medical records. Record requests were sent for 30 patients at a rate of 2.3 medical requests per patient.

Each of the providers was scored based on their response to the request and whether they satisfied four requirements of HIPAA – Accepting a request by email/fax, sending the records in the format requested by the patient, providing records within 30 days, and only charging a reasonable fee.

Providers were given a 1-star rating for simply accepting a patient record request. Providers received a second star for satisfying the request and meeting all four requirements of HIPAA, but only after the researchers had escalated the request to a supervisor on more than one occasion.

A three-star rating was given to providers that required a single escalation phone call to a supervisor. A four-star rating was given to providers that were fully compliant with the HIPAA right of access. A five-star rating was given to providers that went above and behind the requirements of HIPAA by sending copies of records within 5 days, accepting non-standard forms, and providing patients with copies of their records at no cost.

More than half (51%) of the providers assessed were either not fully compliant with the HIPAA right of access or it too several attempts and referrals to supervisors before requests were satisfied in a fully compliant manner. 27%  of providers were given a one-star rating, 24% received a 2-star rating, and 20% received a 3-star rating. Only 30% of providers were fully compliant. 12% were given a 4-star rating and 18% received 5-stars.

The researchers also conducted a telephone survey on 3,003 healthcare providers and asked about policies and procedures for releasing patient medical records. The researchers suggest as many as 56% of healthcare providers may not be fully compliant with the HIPAA right of access. 24% did not appear to be fully aware of the fee limitations for providing copies of medical records.

The main area of noncompliance was the failure to send medical records electronically, even if it was specifically requested by the patient. 12 of the 14 providers who received a 1-star rating did not email medical records, one refused to send the records to the patient’s nominated representative, and one charged an unreasonable fee.

The researchers note that had they not escalated the requests to supervisors, 71% of all requests would not have been satisfied in a way that was fully compliant with 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.