In the latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit as mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act, the data revealed that patients find it hard to obtain copies of their medical information mainly because of high fees. Nevertheless, the problem isn’t just on the patient’s side. The providers also have difficulty retrieving patient data and processing the patients’ request for copies.
Patients’ information are available in electronic format kept in various EHRs. Data could also be in paper or film format stored in diverse places. A lot of providers are unable to allocate the necessary resources in order to satisfy the requested medical records copies of patients. There aren’t enough staff who could process the patients’ requests due to overly busy work.
Copies of patient data need to be examined thoroughly to be sure that patients obtain a correct document. Occasionally, mistakes occur in transferring data from physical format to electronic format and in combining all the patient information from different sources.
Providers likewise experience some security issues. For instance, when patients ask that electronic copies of their information be copied to a memory stick (which is permitted by HIPAA), the risk is getting malware infection on the provider’s database system.
A number of healthcare providers have patient websites to allow patients to quickly obtain their health data copies. This has considerably diminished the burden on healthcare providers brought on by way too many patient requests. Sadly, patient websites at times don’t have the complete patient medical data. Therefore patients could not obtain medical data needed.
As per OCR, they have gotten countless grievances from patients concerning their experience in obtaining copies of their health records. The majority of patients’ complaints are:
- the high fees they need to pay
- the very long time (over 30 days) of waiting to get the requests
- the inability to accommodate requests such as giving the health data to caregivers or loved ones
- denying the parents’ request to obtain copies on behalf of their children
Due to the complaints, OCR is taking into consideration to make additional guidance besides the guidance previously published in 2016. This is to particularly make clear the fees permitted under HIPAA Rules.