OCR settles with 5 more providers on HIPAA right of access violations

Dive Brief:

  • The HHS Office of Civil Rights said Tuesday it has settled five more investigations into violations of the HIPAA requirement that patients have access to their electronic medical records.
  • The settlements all include payments to OCR ranging from $3,500 from Virginia psychiatric services provider King MD to $70,000 from Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services. All five providers agreed to corrective action plans with one or two years of monitoring.
  • Three of the providers failed to give the patient medical records access until after a second complaint to OCR was made and validated. All Inclusive Medical Services, a multi-specialty family clinic in Carmichael, California, refused a patient’s request for access in January 2018 and only sent the records last month after OCR’s second investigation.

Dive Insight:

The agreements mark seven total settlements since OCR began its HIPAA Right of Access Initiative last year. Lack of access to EHR information can keep a patient from understanding their care plan and advocating for the best treatment, along with stalling efforts to coordinate care among providers at different organizations.

“Patients can’t take charge of their health care decisions, without timely access to their own medical information,” OCR Director Roger Severino said in a statement.  

The settlement amount is determined based on the extent of the violation, the resulting harm and the organization’s size, history with HIPAA compliance and financial situation. That includes the effects from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to the statement.

OCR’s first right of access settlement was two years ago this month and involved an $85,000 payout from a Community Health Systems hospital in Florida. The second was in December with a primary care and pain management practice, also in Florida.

Included in this week’s actions are Wise Psychiatry in Colorado, which will pay $10,000, and New York-based nonprofit Housing Works, which provides healthcare and social services for people living with HIV or AIDS. It is paying OCR $38,000.