HHS and Florida Hospital Reach HIPAA Right of Access Settlement

Seth Augenstein
SEPTEMBER 12, 2019
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A Florida hospital has agreed to pay and adopt a corrective action plan in response to allegations of its failing to provide timely access to patient records under HIPAA, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg has paid $85,000 to the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and adopted the new internal rules to guarantee future rights of access for patients, according to the federal agency.

The settlement is the first of its kind under an OCR initiative announced earlier this year to “vigorously enforce the rights of patients to receive copies of their medical records promptly and without being overcharged.”

The complaint came from a mother who had requested access to the medical records about her unborn child.

The woman had requested fetal heart monitor records from Bayfront starting in October 2017. The woman’s attorney further requested the records in January and February, 2018. An incomplete set of the records was given in March 2018, with a complete response provided to the lawyers the following August.

But the complete fetal heart records were only given over directly to the woman in February 2019, as a result of the OCR investigation.

Then federal agency said that HIPAA rules generally require providers to provide medical records within 30 days of the request – and also require providers to charge only a reasonable cost-based fee.

The corrective action plan requires Bayfront to develop written access policies and procedures to provide records quicker in following federal guidelines – and also to provide training and notice of those policies and procedures to employees.

OCR will also monitor Bayfront’s progress for one year, according to the settlement.

“We aim to hold the healthcare industry accountable for ignoring peoples’ rights to access their medical record and those of their kids,” said Roger Severino, J.D., the OCR director.

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