Continuing its serious march against covered entities not allowing patients access to their records, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has settled two more cases in two days in its Right of Access Initiative. This brings the tally of OCR’s settlements to a total of 18.
The 17th settlement, with The Arbour, Inc., d/b/a Arbour Hospital (Arbour,), was announced by the OCR on March 24, 2021. The settlement includes a payment of $65,000 and an agreement to enter into a corrective action plan. In that case, the OCR received a complaint in July of 2019 from a patient who alleged that Arbour failed to provide the patient with a copy of the patient’s records. The request was received by Arbour in May of 2019.
The OCR provided technical assistance to Arbour, but then received a second complaint from the patient that Arbour still had not provided the patient with the records.
The patient didn’t receive the records until November of 2019. OCR determined “that Arbour’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access standard, which requires a covered entity to take action on an access request within 30 days of receipt (or within 60 days if an extension is applicable.)” In this case, Arbour did not provide the patient with the records for more than five months after the request.
Two days later, on March 26, 2021, the OCR announced it had completed its 18th investigation in the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative when it settled with Village Plastic Surgery (VPS). That settlement included a payment of $30,000 and an agreement to enter into a corrective action plan.
That investigation started after a patient complained in September of 2019 that VPS failed to respond in a timely manner to the patient’s request made in August of 2019. The OCR initiated its investigation and “determined that VPS’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access standard” because VPS did not provide the patient with the records within 30 days. According to the OCR’s press release, “OCR’s Right of Access Initiative continues to support and enforce individuals’ vital right to receive copies of their medical records in a timely manner.”
As with most OCR settlements, these provide a stark reminder that covered entities may wish to revisit processes in place to provide medical records to patients when they are requested, so the requests are responded to in a timely manner.