The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights just issued the 10th financial penalty covered by the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative.
Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group based in California has consented to pay a $25,000 financial penalty to settle a potential HIPAA Right of Access violation. In addition, it will undertake a corrective action plan to make sure it complies with this vital HIPAA Privacy Rule provision. The HHS is going to keep an eye on Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group for two years to make certain that it continually complies.
OCR started an investigation of Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group after receiving a patient complaint in March 2019 regarding the provider’s failure to give a copy of her health records after submitting several requests. The first request was filed in February 2019.
OCR got in touch with Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group and offered technical support so that the practice can follow the HIPAA Right of Access and closed the case. A month afterward, in April 2019, OCR received a second complaint from the patient indicating that she still has not gotten her requested medical records, in spite of OCR’s involvement.
OCR reopened the case and investigated Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group. According to the findings, the practice had potential violations of the HIPAA Right of Access because it failed to take the required action. Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group gave the excuse that the patient requested for records including the psychotherapy notes and, therefore determined it is not necessary for them to comply.
OCR replied that it is not necessary to provide psychotherapy notes to patients; but, when patients submit such requests, the provider must give the requestor a written explanation concerning the reason for not providing the requested records, either completely or partly. The patient must be given access to medical records without the psychotherapy notes. Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group did not make such a written explanation and give it to the patient to make clear why the request was refused.
After the second intervention of OCR, the patient received her requested copy of medical records in October 2019 without the psychotherapy notes.
In connection with this particular case settlement, OCR Director Roger Severino stated that whenever patients ask for copies of their medical records, they need to receive a prompt response, not a run-around.