OCR Right of Access Enforcement

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been aggressively pursuing enforcement actions, with civil monetary penalties, regarding patients’ right of access to their records.  As part of OCR’s Phase 2 audits, the agency has fulfilled its promise to vigorously enforce the rights of patients to receive copies of their medical records promptly and without being overcharged. 

A 2019 study published by medRxiv (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/19004291v1) found that more than 50% of the providers evaluated were not fully compliant with access requirements or it took multiple requests to obtain records as required. Additionally, 24% did not appear to be aware of fee limitations for providing medical record copies.

Pending Regulatory Actions

While studies and increased enforcement have uncovered issues with patients being able to obtain copies of records, HHS has published proposed changes to the Privacy Rule that will enhance requirements for timeliness of access, allowable fees for copies of medical records, strengthened right of inspection, and advance notice for access and fees.  HHS’ proposed modifications to the Privacy Rule will provide patients with more and stronger rights for obtaining information in their medical records.

Practices need to familiarize themselves with current rights that are granted to patients and their representatives.  Additionally, there is a need to monitor changes that will be implemented in the next 12 to 18 months. Eagle Associates will be publishing updates in the Advisor® as well as providing new policies and procedures to ensure compliance. Now is the time to review existing procedures to ensure compliance with right of access requirements.

Note:  If you subscribe to Eagle Associates’ HIPAA Compliance System, there are policies for Right of Access (Section 3.15) and Copies of Protected Health Information (Section 3.15d).

For detailed information about the right of access, refer to the article “OCR Enforcement of Patient Right of Access” on page 9 of the February 2020 issue of the Advisor®.