OCR Demonstrates the Seriousness of Adhering to the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative

OCR Demonstrates the Seriousness of Adhering to the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative

OCR Settles Eighth Investigation in HIPAA Right of Access Initiative

On October 7th, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Dignity Health, while doing business at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center (SJHMC), has agreed to take corrective actions to settle a potential HIPAA violation. This corrective action, which includes two years of monitoring and an agreement to pay $160,000, resulted from their potential violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule's right of access provision. This is the eighth settled enforcement action stemming from violating the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative. Previously, in 2019, OCR announced its enforcement priority to supporting individuals' rights to timely access to their health records at a reasonable cost under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

"It shouldn't take a federal investigation to secure access to patient medical records, but too often that's what it takes when health care providers don't take their HIPAA obligations seriously. OCR has many right of access investigations open across the country, and will continue to vigorously enforce this right to better empower patients," said Roger Severino, OCR Director.

The details of this violation stemmed from a complaint received by OCR from a mother, acting as her son's personal representative, who alleged that she had made multiple attempts for copies of her son's medical records. SJGMC failed to provide all the requested records until after OCR initiated an investigation and determined their actions were a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access standard. As a result of the investigation, SJHMC sent all the requested medical records to the mother, close to two years after her initial request was made. For full details on this settlement, please click here.

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