Gary Pritts, president of Eagle Consulting Partners Inc., of Cleveland, Ohio, teaches healthcare providers how to comply with HIPAA. When his wife’s physician denied her request for her records, he knew what to do. He threatened to file a HIPAA complaint. She received her records shortly thereafter.

Jim Hook, senior consultant at The Fox Group LLC, of Upland, California, receives emails on his contact page at least once a month from healthcare providers who are reticent to hand over patient records. Someone moved and wanted a copy of her records sent to the doctor in her new town. The provider wants to know his legal obligations to the patient.

“I want to smack myself in the head and tell them the most basic thing they can do is make a copy and send the records to them,” Hook said. “Some days I just despair why this is so hard. It is a puzzlement, and I think OCR [The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights] has decided to get their attention.”

Enforcement Actions

In a press release, Roger Severino, OCR’s director, said the agency is attempting to empower patients and ensure providers take their HIPAA obligations seriously. Toward that end, OCR in 2019 announced its Right to Access enforcement initiative. The agency recently revealed settlements with these 5 organizations:

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  • Housing Works Inc., which provides services to people in New York City with HIV/AIDS. A complaint was filed in 2019 stating the organization denied a patient access to records. OCR investigated and found their records denial was a potential HIPAA violation and instituted a fine of $38,000.
  • All Inclusive Medical Services, Inc., a family medicine clinic in Carmichael, California, which was fined $15,000 for a 2018 HIPAA violation. It denied a patient’s request to view and receive a copy of her records.
  • Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services, which provides mental health services in eastern Massachusetts. In 2019, OCR received a complaint that a personal representative of a patient wanted her father’s medical records. OCR found the organization to be out of compliance and issued a $70,000 fine.
  • King MD, a Virginia-based mental health provider, which was fined $3,500. A patient filed a complaint alleging the organization refused to provide her with medical records she requested. OCR offered the organization “technical assistance,” but a few months later received another complaint that the provider still had not given the patient her records.
  • Wise Psychiatry PC, of Colorado, had a similar circumstance as King. A patient complained in 2018 that the provider would not provide him with the medical records for his son, a minor. OCR offered technical assistance, and 6 months later another complaint was filed. Wise was fined $10,000.

The law aside, Hook said supplying medical records on requests is good conduct. Some providers may be reticent to share records because they do not want patients to leave or to have their work used by other doctors.

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This article originally appeared on Renal and Urology News