HIPAA Privacy Rule Applies
In as short an explanation as possibleâ€¦ The HIPAA Privacy rule gives a patient the right to access individual PHI (medical record). Requests must be in writing from the patient or patientâ€™s representative and directed to the privacy official or person who is designated to act in the privacy officialâ€™s absence.
Every practice should have their own â€śPatient Request to Access PHIâ€ť form to be completed by the patient because it must include information that allows the patient to â€śdefineâ€ť what information being requested. HIPAA requires these requests be documented and tracked and the provider from whom the record has been requested has 30 days to respond (from the date of receipt of the request). However, if there are medical records request guidelines specific to the STATE in which you practice, and those STATE guidelines are more stringent than HIPAA, then STATE guideline applies. Typically, guidance can also be found under the Stateâ€™s Medical Board. For example: Texas Administrative Code (Medical Board) and Texas Occupations Code contain a more stringent response guideline of 15 business days, so the state trumps the 30 day response required by HIPAA (federal).
I am not aware of any guideline that allows a provider to force a patient to pick up the records. In fact, the rule states the patient can request records be sent via U.S. Postal Service. The information can also be sent electronically as long as you have written authorization from the patient. The practice is allowed to charge a reasonable cost-based fee to cover the cost of copying and postage. In Texas, the STATE has guidelines on what constitutes a â€śreasonable feeâ€ť for providing copies of medical records and, except in the case of an emergency, records do not have to be released until fee is paid. However, medical records can NOT be withheld because the patient has a past due account for medical care or treatment previously rendered.
Hope this helps!
Susan M. Garrett, CPC, COC
Past President El Paso Texas Chapter AAPC
Past Member AAPCCA Board of Directors