In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provided a variety of guidance to address the importance of honoring the right of patients to have access to their medical information and not to be over-charged for exercising that right.

Earlier this week, the OCR announced an enforcement action and settlement under its Right of Access Initiative against Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (Bayfront) in Florida. This settlement, the first of its kind under OCR’s initiative to enforce patients’ rights to promptly receive copies of their medical records without being overcharged, has cost Bayfront $85,000. The 480-bed hospital is also required to undertake a corrective action plan that includes a one-year period of monitoring by OCR.

OCR’s investigation was prompted by the complaint of a mother seeking access to records for her unborn child. Unless a shorter time period is required by state law, HIPAA generally requires Covered Entities to provide requested medical records within 30 days and allows only for a reasonable cost-based fee for providing such records. These rules extend to parents seeking the records of their minor children (and, as this case demonstrates, to the prenatal records of their unborn children). Bayfront ultimately provided the requested records as a result of the mother’s complaint to OCR—nine months after the initial request was made.

In a statement regarding the Bayfront settlement, OCR Director Roger Severino noted that “[providing] patients with their health information not only lowers costs and leads to better health outcomes, it’s the law… We aim to hold the healthcare industry accountable for ignoring peoples’ rights to access their medical records and those of their kids.”

The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found here.