On Monday, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) announced an enforcement action against Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (“Bayfront”) for allegedly failing to provide a mother timely access to her unborn child’s prenatal medical records. The enforcement action is noteworthy in that it marks OCR’s first enforcement action under its Right of Access Initiative, announced earlier this year to focus more on enforcing patients’ rights to access their medical records without being overcharged.
After receiving a complaint in August 2018, OCR conducted an investigation indicating that Bayfront, a trauma and tertiary care center based in St. Petersburg, Florida, failed to provide the mother timely access to her unborn child’s fetal heart monitor records in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). HIPAA generally requires health care providers such as Bayfront to provide patients with access to their medical records, as well as those of their minor children, within 30 days of a request. HIPAA also prohibits charging more than a reasonable cost-based fee for such access.
Bayfront agreed to pay $85,000 to OCR to settle the potential HIPAA violation while not admitting to any wrongdoing. Bayfront also agreed to a corrective action plan including training, updating policies and procedures, and OCR monitoring.
This enforcement action signals a continued push from HHS to hold the health care industry accountable for giving individuals access to their health information. Earlier this year, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released proposed regulations on interoperability and information blocking and CMS released proposed regulations on interoperability also aimed at promoting patient access to their health information. In light of this enforcement action and regulatory activity, we recommend that covered entities carefully review their policies and procedures regarding individuals’ access to health information.