Lee SlatonBy Lee Slaton, Vice President of Healthcare; Smart Training

Another Right of Access violation makes the news.

For several months, I’ve been reminding practice owners their patients have the right to request a copy of their Protected Health Information. The Right of Access process is important because it’s become an area of focus for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

In the intervening months, OCR fined several dental practices for failure to provide patient charts in a timely manner. The latest example, a solo practitioner in Pennsylvania, was fined $104,000 for failure to provide a patient’s chart and then ignoring a letter from the OCR. In a remarkable stroke of good fortune, the practice owner was fortunate to successfully negotiate the original fine down to “only” $30,000.

Now that we have everyone’s attention, let’s review the basics:

  • Requests to access medical records must be presented in writing. Requests to access billing records may be presented verbally or in writing.
  • Your office must act on a request—in a HIPAA-compliant manner—for access no later than 30 days following the receipt of the request.
  • If your office is unable to fulfill the request within the 30-day timeframe, the timeframe may be extended by no more than 30 additional days. However, your office’s privacy officer must provide the patient with a written statement outlining the reasons for the delay and specifying a date by which the office will fulfill the request.
  • Reasonable cost-based fees may be imposed for copying, postage, and the cost of supplies for creating the paper copy or electronic media, if the patient requests the electronic copy be provided on portable media.

Please take this to heart: if a patient requests a copy of their chart, you should take this request seriously and fulfill it as quickly as possible. If a patient should complain and your office receives a letter from the Office for Civil Rights, a proper and timely response is imperative.

In situations like those described above, Smart Training can help. The company employs one of only 41 certified HIPAA professionals in the country. If you have questions or concerns, call (469) 342-8300, ext. 508.