Responding to Requests for Patient Information

Healthcare Training Resource
August 28, 2012 — 1,139 views  
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An inevitable occurrence in the healthcare profession is having to deal with requests for patient information for litigation purposes. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), national standards for electronic healthcare transactions, national identifiers for insurance purposes and general recordkeeping regulations have been established. Here are some tips on how to deal with requests for the release of patient information.

The first and most important step, according to Data File Technologies, is to determine your practice's obligation to the patient or the court issuing the subpoena for protected health information. Determine whether the subpoena was issued pursuant to a judicial or administrative tribunal order. Figuring out the differences between a subpoena signed by a court clerk compared to one actually executed as a court order is essential, as each have different obligations to you under HIPAA. Court orders ultimately take precedent and priority over a practice's HIPAA obligation. Another important fact to keep in mind is that a practice has no obligation under federal law to respond to out of state subpoenas or court orders.

Jumping from the legal side to the administrative front, there are several tips that will not only make your life easier, but also help you provide a more thorough set of records for your patient and/or the court. The Alabama State Chiropractic Association recommends pretending that you, the healthcare professional, are the reviewer requesting the records. Act as if you know nothing about your office and have a pile of claims and records you are completely clueless about. By putting yourself in the reviewer's shoes, you are more likely to produce a record that is legible, readable and exceedingly clear and easy to understand. Consider attaching a note or cover letter as well, particularly if the patient's history and records are jumbled and spread out over several years in different locations.

Finally, as a healthcare professional responsible for a medical practice, you must ensure that the burden has been removed and liability has been transferred. According to Data File Technologies, misrepresentation and confusing legal diction make the whole request process complicated. Implementing electronic medical record fulfilment services can help practices transfer the liability of HIPAA violations, eliminate paperwork and other administrative tasks and generally appease demanding patients and litigious pursuers of personal records.

Healthcare Training Resource