The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced its 18th settlement of an enforcement action in its HIPAA Right of Access Initiative on March 26.1

The settlement involved Village Plastic Surgery (VPS) in Ridgewood, NJ, which agreed to take corrective actions and pay $30,000 to settle a potential violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s right of access standard.

The case stemmed from a September 2019 complaint alleging VPS “failed to take timely action in response to a patient’s records access request made in August 2019,” HHS says. OCR’s investigation determined VPS’ alleged delay was a potential violation of the HIPAA Right of Access standard.

VPS sent the requested records to the patient after the OCR investigation.

In an earlier settlement announced Feb. 10, Renown Health, a private, not-for-profit health system in Reno, NV, agreed to take corrective actions and pay a $75,000 fine — for a single alleged violation.2

“In February 2019, OCR received a complaint alleging that Renown Health failed to timely respond to a patient’s request that an electronic copy of her protected health information, including billing records, be sent to a third party,” HHS reports. “OCR’s investigation determined that Renown Health’s failure to provide timely access to the requested records was a potential violation of the HIPAA right of access standard. As a result of OCR’s investigation, Renown Health provided access to all of the requested records.” In addition to the hefty fine, Renown Health agreed to two years of monitoring as part of a corrective action plan.

On Feb. 12, OCR announced a settlement with Sharp HealthCare, which operates four acute care hospitals, three specialty hospitals, three affiliated medical groups, and a health plan in California. The settlement included a $70,000 fine and a corrective action plan with two years of monitoring.3

A patient claimed Sharp failed to respond in a timely fashion to request directing that an electronic copy of protected health information be sent to a third party.

“The OCR provided Sharp with technical assistance on its alleged failure to provide access to the records and requested that Sharp respond to the patient’s request. In August 2019, the OCR received a second complaint from the same patient alleging that Sharp still had not responded to the patient’s records access request,” HHS reports. “The OCR investigated the matter, and Sharp provided access to the requested records.”

At press time, OCR had settled five Right of Access investigations so far in 2021, four of those since President Biden was sworn in to office on Jan. 20.

REFERENCES

  1. HHS.gov. OCR settles eighteenth investigation in HIPAA Right of Access initiative. March 26, 2021.

  2. HHS.gov. OCR settles fifteenth investigation in HIPAA Right of Access initiative. Feb. 10, 2021.

  3. HHS.gov. OCR settles sixteenth investigation in HIPAA Right of Access initiative. Feb. 12, 2021.