OCR Settlement Underscores Importance of Providing Patients with Timely Access to Medical Records

A recent settlement issued by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requires NY Spine Medicine to pay $100,000 for violating the agency’s HIPAA Right of Access Initiative. Implemented in 2019, this OCR regulation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website, instructs HIPAA covered entities to provide patients, upon request, with timely access to their protected health information (PHI).

As summarized in an HHS news release, OCR began an investigation after receiving a complaint from a patient claiming that the New York City based medical group failed to deliver diagnostic films specifically requested by the individual, despite multiple attempts to obtain the records. The agency determined that NY Spine’s failure to provide the PHI within a 30-day period was in violation of the Right of Access Initiative.

OCR Director Roger Severino explains that “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.” NY Spine, which specializes in neurology and interventional pain management, has agreed to a corrective action plan and will be monitored by OCR for two years.

Healthcare providers “need to be aware that affording patients timely access to their medical records is now a focus of HHS enforcement, and a failure to comply could result in hefty fines,” writes Barclay Damon’s Fran Ciardullo in a legal analysis of the action. Ciardullo emphasizes that all covered entities must ensure their policies and practices are in “compliance with HIPAA and New York State rules of access.” Additionally, she says, healthcare personnel should be thoroughly trained on providing patients and former patients “access to their records within regulatory timeframes.”

MLMIC encourages all our insured providers and facilities to ensure their processes for patient access to PHI are in accordance with all the rules and regulations required by both the state and federal government. 

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