Survey: Charging patients for EHR access may violate HIPAA

Source: iHealthbeat

Many providers are charging patients for access to their electronic health records, with the price varying by provider, according to a survey published by the American Health Information Management Association, Modern Healthcare reports.

The survey, which was conducted by Texas State University professor Kim Murphy-Abdouch, included responses from 313 executives across several different health care settings, including:

  • Acute care;
  • Ambulatory surgical centers;
  • Home care; and
  • Integrated delivery systems.

Survey Findings

The survey found that:

  • 87.5% of the executives’ organizations had an EHR system; and
  • 33.2% had a patient portal (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 1/8).

Stage 2 of the meaningful use program requires eligible professionals to provide patients the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information, and they must get more than 5% of their patients to actually use online portals.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (iHealthBeat, 12/18/14).

However, 48% of health care organizations with a portal had less than a 5% patient use rate (Modern Healthcare, 1/8).

Meanwhile, the survey also found that:

  • 23.6% of respondents said they adhered to their state’s rules about the cost of record copies (Murphy-Abdouch, Perspectives in Health Information Management, Winter 2015);
  • 52.6% of respondents said that their organizations charged patients to accesses EHRs, with prices varying from a fee per-page to a flat rate; and
  • 64.7% of respondents said their organizations charged patients for paper copies of their medical records (Modern Healthcare, 1/8).

Murphy-Abdouch wrote, “Following the state rates would suggest that the fees are not uniquely based on the cost to the facility,” which “would appear to be inconsistent with HIPAA and HITECH [Act] requirements that patients may only be charged a ‘reasonable cost-based fee’ for copies of their medical records” (Perspectives in Health Information Management, Winter 2015).