Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is announcing its first enforcement action and settlement in its Right of Access Initiative. Earlier this year, OCR announced this initiative promising to vigorously enforce the rights of patients to receive copies of their medical records promptly and without being overcharged.
Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (Bayfront) has paid $85,000 to OCR and has adopted a corrective action plan to settle a potential violation of the right of access provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules after Bayfront failed to provide a mother timely access to records about her unborn child. Bayfront, based in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a Level II trauma and tertiary care center licensed as a 480-bed hospital with over 550 affiliated physicians.
OCR initiated its investigation based on a complaint from the mother. As a result, Bayfront directly provided the individual with the requested health information more than nine months after the initial request. The HIPAA Rules generally require covered health care providers to provide medical records within 30 days of the request and providers can only charge a reasonable cost-based fee. This right to patient records extends to parents who seek medical information about their minor children, and in this case, a mother who sought prenatal health records about her child.
“Providing patients with their health information not only lowers costs and leads to better health outcomes, it’s the law,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “We aim to hold the health care industry accountable for ignoring peoples’ rights to access their medical records and those of their kids.”
In addition to the monetary settlement, Bayfront will undertake a corrective action plan that includes one year of monitoring by OCR. The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/bayfront/index.html