OCR HIPAA Right of Access Initiative Results in 9th Financial Penalty

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is maintaining the pace in its crackdown on healthcare groups that are 1005 adhering to the HIPAA right of access.

Recently, OCR revealed that it is sanctioning its ninth enforcement action against a HIPAA-covered group in relation to the failure to provide patients with timely access to their medical records at a reasonable price.

HIPAA allocates patients permission to view or receive a copy of their medical history. When a request is submitted for access to medical history, HIPAA-covered groups must provide access to or a copy of the requested medical history as quickly as  possible. This request must be processed inside of 30 days from when the request was first registered.

Once obtained, patients can share the copy of their medical records with other providers, research groups, or individuals as they so please. Patients can review their medical records for errors and submit requests to correct any errors. Should a ransomware attack occur that renders medical records inaccessible, patients who have a copy of their records ensure that their health histories are always available.

As per the OCR HIPAA Right of Access Initiative, complaints submitted by those who have been denied access to their medical records or have faced delays in receiving a copy of their records are reviewed. When breaches of the HIPAA right of access are identified, financial penalties are sanctioned. The focus of financial sanctions is to encourage compliance by making noncompliance very expensive.

The most recent financial penalty was sanctioned on NY Spine, a private medical outfit with clinics based in New York and Miami that specializes in neurology and pain management. OCR received a complaint from a patient in July 2019 who alleged to have submitted a number of requests to NY Spine in June 2019 asking for a copy of her protected health information.

NY Spine replied to the requests and sent a portion of her records but failed to hand over the diagnostic films that she had specifically asked for. It was only after a direct request from OCR that NY Spine supplied those records. This happened in October 2020, 16 months after the first request was sent in.

NY Spine and OCR came to a HIPAA settlement agreement for $100,000 along with the implementation of a corrective action plan and will be closely monitored by OCR for compliance for the nest 24 months.

OCR Director, Roger Severino said: “No one should have to wait over a year to get copies of their medical records.  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.”

Author: Maria Perez