OCR Settles First Case in Right-of-Access Initiative

Sept. 9, 2019
Bayfront Health St. Petersburg pays $85,000 fine, adopts corrective plan

Earlier this year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced an initiative to vigorously enforce the rights of patients to receive copies of their medical records promptly and without being overcharged. The OCR has announced its first enforcement action and settlement in its Right of Access Initiative.

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, a Florida-based Level II trauma and tertiary care center licensed as a 480-bed hospital with over 550 affiliated physicians, has paid $85,000 to OCR and has adopted a corrective action plan to settle a potential violation of the right of access provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules, OCR said Bayfront failed to provide a mother timely access to records about her unborn child.  

OCR said it initiated its investigation based on a complaint from the mother.  Bayfront directly provided the individual with the requested health information more than nine months after the initial request. The HIPAA Rules generally require covered entities to provide medical records within 30 days of the request and providers can only charge a reasonable cost-based fee. This right to patient records extends to parents who seek medical information about their minor children, and in this case, a mother who sought prenatal health records about her child.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Bayfront will undertake a corrective action plan that includes one year of monitoring by OCR.

“Providing patients with their health information not only lowers costs and leads to better health outcomes, it’s the law,” said OCR Director Roger Severino, in a statement.  “We aim to hold the healthcare industry accountable for ignoring peoples’ rights to access their medical records and those of their kids.”

In a tweet, Lucia Savage, who served as chief privacy officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT from October 2014 to January 2017, said, “It’s a start but not the blockbuster fine that would really make covered entities pay attention.”

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