Hackensack Meridian Health OCR Settlement

OCR started the month as they ended last month, by announcing a HIPAA Right of Access settlement. On April 1, 2024, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) settled with Hackensack Meridian Health for $100,000 to resolve a potential HIPAA violation.

The Complaint and the Settlement

In May 2020, a complaint was filed against Hackensack Meridian Health alleging that the skilled nursing facility failed to provide a patient’s personal representative with a copy of requested medical records. As a result of an OCR investigation, the records were provided in November 2020.

“A patient’s timely access to health records is paramount for medical care. The Office for Civil Rights continues to receive complaints from individuals and personal representatives on behalf of individuals who do not receive timely access to their health records,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “OCR will continue to vigorously enforce this essential right to ensure compliance by health care facilities across the country.”

Hackensack Meridian Health waived its right to a hearing and agreed to pay $100,000. 

What is the HIPAA Right of Access?

The HIPAA right of access standard requires healthcare organizations to meet a patient’s request to receive a copy of their medical records. These records must be provided to the patient, or their personal representative, within thirty days of the request (or within 60 days if an extension is applicable). 

Records must also be provided in the format the patient requests them in when it is reasonably appropriate to do so, and places limitations on the cost that can be charged for providing the records.

Under this standard, healthcare organizations must provide patients with access to all protected health information contained in their “designated record set.” There are two categories of information, however, that are expressly excluded from the right of access:

  • Psychotherapy notes of a mental healthcare provider documenting or analyzing the contents of a counseling session. These notes are maintained separate from the rest of the patient’s medical record. 
  • Information compiled in reasonable anticipation of, or for use in, a civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding.

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