A big expense of a new personal injury case is the cost of getting your clients’ medical records. A complete set of medical records for a month-long hospitalization can cost more than $500 and that’s before you’ve decided whether to accept the case. A simple solution is to request the electronic medical records on a compact disc. A federal law, known as “HITECH”, enacted in 2009 gives you this right.
Your Letter to the Hospital or Doctor
Dear Hospital or Doctor:
My client requests all electronic records be produced in a .pdf file format on compact disc (CD) for the cost of labor and of a CD. Page charges for a digital file that can be copied to a single CD are not reasonable cost-based fees. The HITECH Act directs that a patient shall have the right to obtain electronic records for a reasonable cost-based fee.
42 U.S.C. section 17935(e): Access to certain information in electronic format:
In applying section 164.524 of title 45, Code of Federal Regulations [HIPAA regulations], in the case that a covered entity uses or maintains an electronic health record with respect to protected health information of an individual—
(1) the individual shall have the right to obtain from such covered entity a copy of such information in an electronic format…
(2) any fee that the covered entity may impose for providing such individual with a copy of such information (or a summary or explanation of such information) if such copy (or summary or explanation) is in an electronic form shall not be greater than the entity’s labor costs in responding to the request for the copy (or summary or explanation).
42 U.S.C. section 17935(e)(Emphasis Added).
This statute (entitled in part, “access to certain information in electronic format”), was enacted in February, 2009, and was written specifically to allow a patient to direct medical records to “any” third party and take advantage of the reasonable cost-based benefits of HIPAA. The rule includes attorneys or anyone else the patient designates in his letter requesting records.
How Much Can the Hospital Charge Now for Medical Records?
What are the “labor costs” of burning electronic medical records to a CD? The CD costs a couple of bucks and it takes a few minutes to burn the electronic records to a CD. One thing is clear: the labor costs for burning the electronic medical records onto a CD have got to be a helluva lot less than the 75 cents per page charged by hospitals and doctors for photocopying medical records. You just saved your client (and your practice) a ton of cash!
The regulations are enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights. If the hospital or doctor refuses to provide the medical records to you in an electronic format, you should file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.