HIPAA right of access

A lawsuit filed by Sherry Russell claims that HealthAlliance Hospital and Ciox Health denied access to her deceased husband’s medical records. If her claims are true, the healthcare organizations violated the HIPAA right of access provision. More details about the lawsuit are discussed below.

HIPAA Right of Access Violation

Sherry Russell requested her deceased husband’s medical records so that she may file a malpractice lawsuit against HealthAlliance Hospital. Russell claims that the Hospital failed to identify a lung tumor on her husband’s chest x-ray, leading to his untimely death. Without access to her husband’s records, she will be unable to prove wrongdoing on the Hospital’s part.

Russell’s lawyer, John Fisher, states, “Russell can’t even determine the name of the correct physician liable for wrongdoing, without the medical records. HealthAlliance Hospital, the very entity that has wronged her, is continuing to wrong her by stonewalling her.” Fisher is also representing a dozen other clients with similar HIPAA right of access violation claims against the Hospital.

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When she requested the records, Ciox Health, HealthAlliance Hospital’s health information management vendor, informed her that they could not provide them in the format she requested – a digital copy. They also told her that they could only provide access to paper records at 75 cents per page.

However, according to the HITECH Act, records must be provided in the format requested, and the fee for access cannot exceed $6.50. The HITECH Act also “permits covered entities to disclose a decedent’s protected health information to family members and others who were involved in the care or payment for care of the decedent prior to death, unless doing so is inconsistent with prior expressed preference of the individual that is known to the covered entity.”

This is not the first time that Ciox Health has been accused of overcharging for access to patient records. In 2017, along with 62 Indiana hospitals, a federal lawsuit was filed for falsifying records, and their involvement in a kickback scheme that overbilled patients for the release of records. The lawsuit was dropped, however. There are also several other disputes involving Ciox Health’s HIPAA right of access violations, some of which have been settled for millions of dollars.