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Medical Record Requests – Enforcement is Real

We have been talking a lot about patients’ right of access to medical records. Do you know the result of not complying with a patient’s request? This week, we provide you with that information. Watch the video to learn more!


We’ve been talking over the last several weeks about the patient’s right of access to their medical records. One of the things that I really want to talk about and I want to make sure this is abundantly clear, we’re not trying to set this up to create any kind of fear. And we don’t want to do that. But we do want to make sure that everybody understands that this is actually a very important topic that it is, it’s worthy of your time and attention, some of it you may look at, and you may think, well, this is really simple. This is actually Elementary, it’s nothing complicated. These are things that you do, but I will tell you that I’ve seen where policies kind of get in the way. And sometimes employees are not quite as diligent as they should be when a patient requests their medical records. I’ve also seen it where you know, where someone restricts the access because a patient hasn’t paid their bill. Those are not acceptable reasons to not provide a patient with their medical records, as we’ve talked about in many of these video videos before.


But the question we get a lot from our doctors is, yeah, but what really happens if we don’t what happens if we don’t adhere to these rules? What happens if we are slow in our response, and we don’t respond in a timely manner in providing those medical records when a patient requests them? And the answer is actually, that’s where the Office of Civil Rights so it’s a governmental office entity begins an investigation process and, and what we have seen as they’ve actually done a huge number of enforcement actions against providers who are not living up to their responsibilities, especially under the right of access, there is a huge movement for the patient to be able to kind of seize control of their, of their health in their medical history, and interoperability. And they want to make sure that, that all of a patient’s medical records are quickly and easily transferred to the appropriate health care personnel or to other health care personnel delivering care to that patient, they want the providers to have the greatest amount of information about that patient to continually better serve that patient to continually improve the health of, of the patients here in the United States. And so this is the way that they do it. It’s through the Office of Civil Rights. It’s actually a simple complaint process, as you can google it now. My doctor won’t give me medical records, what do I do? And you’ll see that the top link there actually gives quick access to a patient who wants to file a complaint against their doctor for not giving them access to their medical records, right? And so this is important.

So you’re like, Okay, well, what happens? Well, actually, again, the Office of Civil Rights gets involved, they do an investigation. And what we’ve seen time and time, again, is that they actually levy fines and additional responsibilities on that practice, the fines have ranged anywhere from about $20,000 to several $100,000, depending on the entity depending on the circumstances. And interestingly, they really don’t care they don’t seem to be just going after the larger hospitals, or the big systems. But we see time and time again, where they’re going after smaller practices, DME providers, we’ve seen them go after dental practices and small other small physician practices, really, there is no discernment on size. So if you’re thinking, Well, I’m smaller, and so I don’t have to live up to some of these things, or I don’t have enough employees or, or whatever the case might be, they’re really they’re not showing a whole lot of leeway, depending on the size of who you are. Again, we’ve seen it all over from really small to large hospital systems, and know that they do actually handle these cases, and they do bring them forward. In fact, in the last 30 days, there have been at least three that we’ve watched across our desk enforcements by the Office of Civil Rights surrounding the right of access, or HIPAA violations and a release of information. And we will touch on that in a future video as well because there are some challenges there that happen from time to time.

But know this, the Office of Civil Rights is there. The additional cost is not just those $20,000 $23,000 fines, but it’s actually the plans that you have to put into place and the cost of monitoring and administering those plans, and the attorney costs involved in defending these cases. That’s where the real cost comes in. Again, we’re not telling you this to scare you, we’re making sure that you know that this is a real thing. That providing a patient their medical records and not withholding them for any reason, or for not those that are specifically carved out and they’re very narrow and very seldom are they going to fit into the category of treatment that happens and a chiropractic physician’s office so just adhere to it and move forward and not have to worry about any of the enforcement issues and the enforcement actions taken because you have lived up to what’s required under the law we hope this information helps you out and we’ll catch you next week.

About Author

Marc Abla, CAE

Marc Abla began working at the Illinois Chiropractic Society in 2002 and became the Executive Director in 2008. He brings his extensive financial, administrative and association experience to the ICS. He is a Certified Association Executive and a graduate of the Certified Leadership Series through the Illinois Society of Association Executives. Additionally, he is a member of the Illinois Society of Association Executives, the American Society of Association Executives, Association Forum, Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, and the American Chiropractic Association.

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