The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is moving forward with its efforts to catch healthcare companies that fail to provide patients with prompt access to their healthcare records. OCR recently announced a settlement reached with Banner Health to take care of a HIPAA Right of Access violation. Banner Health consented to pay the amount of $200,000 to resolve the case.
Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, people have the right to access, examine, and get a copy of their protected health information (PHI). Upon receipt of a request, HIPAA-covered entities need to give a copy of the needed documents in 30 days.
At the end of 2019, OCR made an announcement that it is going after non-compliant entities as per this vital requirement of HIPAA. From then on, 14 financial penalties were enforced on covered entities that did not promptly give patients a copy of their health records.
Banner Health based in Phoenix, AZ is one of America’s biggest health care systems. It manages 30 hospitals and other urgent care, primary care, and specialty care establishments.
Two patients of Banner Health affiliated covered entities sent complaints to OCR alleging that their copies of medical records had long been delayed. The first patient requested his/her medical records from Banner Estrella Medical Center last December 2017 and only received the requested copies in May 2018. The second patient complained that he/she waited 5 months to receive an electronic copy of his medical records. The patient submitted a request to Banner Gateway Medical Center in September 2019 and only received the records in February 2020.
Under the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative, the biggest financial penalty imposed by OCR on a HIPAA-covered entity is $200,000. Besides paying the $200,000 fine, Banner Health will follow a corrective action plan that consists of reviewing and changing written policies regarding health record access, carrying out those policies, and equipping the staff regarding the new policies. Banner Health will be under OCR monitoring for 2 years to make sure of compliance.
The very first settlement this year shows that the Right of Access Initiative is still in force and that all healthcare providers must honor the patient’s right to have timely access to their health records.