Today, in the first settlement of its kind, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“OCR”) announced that Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (“Bayfront”) 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). This is also the first enforcement action under OCR’s Right of Access Initiative, under which OCR has stated it will vigorously enforce the rights of patients to receive copies of their medical records promptly and without being overcharged.
The action was initiated after a mother complained that she was not given timely access to records about her unborn child by Bayfront. In particular, Bayfront had provided the mother with the requested health information more than nine months after the initial request:
“HHS’ investigation revealed that Complainant submitted a written request on October 18, 2017 for the fetal heart monitor records; Bayfront replied that the records were not found. On January 2, 2018 and February 12, 2018, Complainant’s counsel requested the records. Bayfront provided a complete response to Complainant’s counsel on August 23, 2018, after providing an incomplete set of the records in March 2018. Complainant’s counsel shared the records with her and, as a result of OCR’s investigation, on February 7, 2019, Bayfront provided Complainant with the fetal heart monitor records directly.”
The HIPAA Rules generally require covered health care providers 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. Violation of this corrective action plan could result in the imposition of civil monetary penalties on Bayfront.