HIPAA Right of Access Failure by Healthcare Provider Resulted in $160,000 Penalty

The 12th HIPAA penalty of 2020 has been reported by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). It is the 8th under the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative since it was introduced in 2019. The $160,000 settlement deal is the biggest HIPAA penalty thus far for failing to give a person timely access to the medical records requested.

On January 24, 2018, the mother of a patient requested from Dignity Health, dba St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center (SJHMC) a copy of her son’s healthcare records. The mother requested as her son’s personal representative. By April 25, 2018, the mother filed a complaint with the OCR for not receiving all the requested documents , .

OCR looked into the probable HIPAA violation and confirmed the request of the complainant for four particular sets of health records from SJHMC. The dates that the same records were requested are as follows: January 24, March 22, April 3, and May 2, 2018.

SJHMC did take action on the requests, however, it did not provide all the requested documents. The mother got in touch with SJHMC again on May 2, May 10 and May 15, 2018 to ask for the lacking medical records. SJHMC replied and sent more records, however they were not the specified records requested. The mother only received all the requested records from SJHMC on December 19, 2019, that is after 22 months from the date of initial request.

SJHMC consented to pay the $160,000 financial charges to resolve the case without admission of liability. SJHMC will likewise undertake a corrective action plan to take care of all areas of noncompliance under OCR’s monitoring for two years.

OCR Director Roger Severino said that a federal investigation shouldn’t be necessary to get access to patient healthcare records. Yet many times that’s what it requires for healthcare companies that do not pay attention to their HIPAA obligations. OCR has a lot of open right of access investigations throughout the country and it will not stop to strongly enforce this right to help patients fight for their rights.

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Christine Garcia is the staff writer on Calculated HIPAA. Christine has several years experience in writing about healthcare sector issues with a focus on the compliance and cybersecurity issues. Christine has developed in-depth knowledge of HIPAA regulations. You can contact Christine at [email protected]. You can follow Christine on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChrisCalHIPAA