In a first, HIPAA right of access case gets settled with OCR

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg pays $85,000 to HHS Office for Civil Rights and promises remediation after failing to give an expectant mother timely access to her medical records.
By Mike Miliard
12:07 PM

The first enforcement action and settlement related to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Right of Access Initiative is costing one Florida hospital $85,000.

HHS Office for Civil Rights reached the monetary settlement with Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, which has also agreed to a corrective action plan, for noncompliance with HIPAA's new right of access provision.

OCR alleges that Bayfront, a 480-bed Level II trauma and tertiary care center, failed to give a mother timely access to records about her unborn child.

After the mother lodged a complaint with OCR, Bayfront eventually supplied the requested health information – more than nine months after her first request.

HIPAA generally requires that covered entities provide access medical records within 30 days of a patient's request, and only allows providers to charge a reasonable cost-based fee.

That right extends to parents seeking medical information about minor children – including, as in this case, mothers who seek prenatal health records.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Bayfront will undertake a corrective action plan that includes one year of monitoring by OCR.

Upon announcing its Right of Access Initiative, HHS promised to "vigorously enforce" the rights of patients to get timely copies of their medical records without being overcharged.

"With the increasing use of and continued advances in health information technology, individuals have ever expanding and innovative opportunities to access their health information electronically, more quickly and easily, in real time and on demand," said HHS officials earlier this year.

"Individuals with access to their health information are better able to monitor chronic conditions, adhere to treatment plans, find and fix errors in their health records, track progress in wellness or disease management programs, and directly contribute their information to research."

"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, in a statement about the Bayfront settlement. "We aim to hold the healthcare industry accountable for ignoring peoples' rights to access their medical records and those of their kids."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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