We have been following the OCR’s and HHS’ Right of Access Initiative over the past several months and the investigations are piling up. The purpose of the initiative is to support individuals’ right to access their health records in a timely manner.

The seventeenth settlement and corrective action plan was issued this week to an organization for failing to respond, in a timely manner, to a request from a patient to access their records. The patient submitted a complaint to OCR for the first time in July of 2019, which resulted in OCR providing the requirements on HIPAA Right of Access to the covered entity. Unfortunately, the organization still did not respond to the patient’s request which resulted in a $65,000 settlement and a one-year corrective action plan.  Right of Access requires a covered entity provide records within 30 days of the request, or within 60 days if an extension is applicable.

Here is a reminder of what your formal process documents should include:

  • Any documentation that the patient needs to complete in order to request access.
    • A form that includes the following is advised:
      • Patient name and DOB
      • Contact information
      • Delivery Type (Printed or Electronic)
      • Records that are being requested
      • How the organization will notify the patient when their records are ready for pick up
      • Date and Signature of patient or their legal representative
    • A form that outlines the copying and mailing costs the patient will be responsible for.
      • See 45 CFR 164.524(c)(4) for what fees can be charged to a patient
    • Forms of identification that are acceptable to prove patient identity.
    • Personnel in which access requests should go through.
      • State a specific person, role, or department that should carry out requests and who has final approval.
    • The expected timeframe that an access request should be completed.
      • This should be determined by the organization but cannot exceed 30 calendar days from the date of the request.
        • The covered entity may extend the time, if needed, by an additional 30 days but the patient must be notified in writing within the initial 30 days of the delay. Only one extension is permitted per access request.
      • Grounds for denial
        • Any grounds for denial should be carefully researched and compared to 45 CFR 164.524(a), 45 CFR 164.524(b), 45 CFR 164.524(d) for legality.
      • It’s important to note that the handling of sensitive information, such as psychotherapy notes, substance abuse, and blood borne diseases may require a different approach.