Know Your Rights: Obtaining Medical Records Under the HITECH Act

The “Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health” (or HITECH) Act has many aspects, but today we’ll focus on the Electronic Health Record (EHR) access portion.

Under HITECH, when a provider has implemented an EHR system, individuals have the right to obtain their protected health information (PHI) and to ask a third party (read: lawyer) to obtain their information electronically. The only cost that can be charged is a fee equal to the labor cost, which is usually a few dollars for a CD-ROM. (Note that this only applies to electronic requests, not printed requests that can include cost of printing.)

Unfortunately, not every provider is up-to-date on the standards of the law, frequently just by not knowing the details. Sometimes, the provider is not in compliance and requests for a PHI can be in the thousands of dollars. (This can be petitioned.)

This isn't the correct price.

This isn’t a reasonable price to obtain your own medical records.

There are many ways a healthcare provider can end up being in violation of the HITECH Act, including:

  • Overcharging
  • Charging extra for an attorney (or other third party) to obtain the records
  • Taking more than 30 days
  • Requiring additional paperwork, authorization, hospital forms, etc.
  • Charging access fees
  • The Records Contractor not accepting HIPAA
  • Pre-emption – State law applied to fees
  • Only producing records a limited number of times
  • Having access to electronic records but only producing print (read: more expensive) records

To obtain your records, first send a letter to the provider. If you don’t receive your CD with a PDF of your records within 30 days, send them a follow-up letter to remind them their 30 days are up. If you don’t hear a response in two weeks, you should look for the “Health Information Privacy Complaint” form from the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Many providers simply aren’t yet caught up with the law or don’t realize they are in violation. Know your rights and don’t get stuck paying thousands of dollars for a bill that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

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