On September 20, 2022 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced the resolution of three investigations concerning potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule's patient right of access to their medical records. These cases are part of a collective effort, bringing the total 41 cases, to drive compliance on right of access under the law.
“These right of access three actions send an important message to dental practices of all sizes that are covered by the HIPAA Rules to ensure they are following the law ,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “Patients have a fundamental right under HIPAA to receive their requested medical records, in most cases, within 30 days. I hope that these actions send the message of compliance so that patients do not have to file a complaint with OCR to have their medical records requests fulfilled.”
OCR has taken the following enforcement actions that underscore the importance and necessity of compliance with the HIPAA Rules, including the foundational right of access provision:
Family Dental Care, P.C. (“FDC”), is a dental practice located in Chicago, Illinois. OCR received a complaint on August 8, 2020, alleging that FDC failed to provide a former patient with timely access to her complete medical records. The former patient requested her entire medical records in May 2020, but received only portions. The former patient filed a complaint with OCR, and during OCR’s investigation, FDC provided her with the remainder of her records in October 2020. Thus, FDC did not provide a complete copy of the records until more than five months after the request was made. OCR's investigation determined that FDC’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access provision. FDC agreed to pay $30,000 and implement a corrective action plan.
Great Expressions Dental Center of Georgia, P.C. (“GEDC-GA”), is a dental and orthodontics provider with multiple locations throughout the state of Georgia. In November 2020, OCR received a complaint alleging that GEDC-GA would not provide an individual with copies of her medical records because she would not pay GEDC-GA’s $170 copying fee. The individual first requested her records in November 2019, but did not receive them until February 2021, over a year later. OCR's investigation determined that GEDC-GA’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records, and its practice of assessing copying fees that were not reasonable and cost-based, were potential violations of the HIPAA right of access provision. GEDC-GA agreed to pay $80,000 and implement a corrective action plan.
B. Steven L. Hardy, D.D.S., LTD, doing business as Paradise Family Dental (“Paradise”) is a dental practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 26, 2020, OCR received a complaint alleging that Paradise had failed to provide a mother with copies of her and her minor child’s protected health information. The mother submitted multiple record requests between April 11, 2020, and December 4, 2020, but Paradise did not send the records until December 31, 2020, more than eight months after her initial request. OCR's investigation determined that Paradise’s failure to provide timely access to the requested medical records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access provision. Paradise agreed to pay $25,000 and implement a corrective action plan.
OCR’s guidance on the right of access is available at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/access/index.html.
Individuals who believe their HIPAA rights have been violated have the right to file a complaint