Making quite the statement on July 15, 2022, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced in a press release that it had recently settled an additional 11 cases under its Right to Access Initiative. These settlements bring the total number of enforcement actions under the Initiative to 38.
The settlements, ranging from $3,500 to $240,000, resolved enforcement actions with 11 medical and dental practices that allegedly did not provide their patients with access to their medical records. Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas paid the largest settlement in the amount of $240,000. The OCR alleged that Memorial Hermann Health System did not respond to a patient’s request for medical records for a total of 564 days.
The patient made five separate requests for her records from the medical records department between June 2019 and January 2020, and she was not provided with her records in full until March 26, 2021.
The OCR reminds covered entities that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires covered entities to provide access to patient records, absent an extension, within thirty (30) days of the request. The OCR did not take kindly to a response 564 days after the request was first made.
These settlements reiterate that the OCR continues to focus on the Initiative and covered entities’ compliance with patient request for records. It is timely to revisit processes around responses to patient requests for access to records so the response can be compliant with HIPAA.