Right to Access

“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. OCR will continue to vigorously enforce this essential right to ensure compliance by health care facilities across the country.”

— OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer.

Medical records are your property. You are entitled to access and a copy of your own health records. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is the federal law that establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records, sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures of protected health information, and gives individuals certain rights, including the right to timely access and obtain a copy of their health records.

Often it is difficult to get a full and complete set which increases suspicion of the reliability and accuracy of the material information contained in the record.

Recently, Essex Residential Care, LLC had to pay $100,000 after failing to comply with HIPAA Right of Access. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), announced a $100,000 civil monetary penalty against Essex Residential Care, LLC, doing business as Hackensack Meridian Health, West Caldwell Care Center (“Hackensack Meridian Health”), a skilled nursing facility that provides long-term care and rehabilitation services.

OCR investigated Hackensack Meridian Health under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule for failing to provide a patient’s personal representative with timely access to the patient’s medical records.

The Notice of Proposed Determination may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/hackensack-meridian-health-west-caldwell-care-center/index.html#npd

The Notice of Final Determination may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/hackensack-meridian-health-west-caldwell-care-center/index.html#nfd

OCR’s guidance on the HIPAA right of access is available at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/access/index.html.

OCR’s guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Rule and personal representatives is available at:  https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/personal-representatives/index.html.

OCR is committed to enforcing the HIPAA Rules that protect the privacy and security of peoples’ health information. Guidance about the Privacy RuleSecurity Rule, and Breach Notification Rule can also be found on OCR’s website.

If you believe that your or another person’s health information privacy or civil rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with OCR at: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints/index.html.