And the answer is …… 329!
For just 95 records requests it took 329 calls to get to someone who would agree to send the records the patients were requesting. And 128 of these calls were escalations to privacy officers.
If you think that this was because we were dealing with very small doctors’ offices or medical centers in remote areas, think again. In fact, of the 27 institutions to whom record requests were sent, only four were small physician offices, and none were in remote areas.
As Deven pointed out in her 4/9 post, this averages out to nearly four phone calls per request. Who has time for that? Er…. no one! And most definitely not a patient struggling with a serious health issue. And so to the question that I know is on all your lips: why does it take so much effort?
Here’s one answer: a large number of HIM departments are simply not up to speed with regard to HIPAA. When I call a HIM department and ask simple, straightforward questions such as:
“Can I fax this patient access request over?” or…
“Can you release records electronically?” or…
“How much, if anything, will you charge for this?”
I cannot even count how many times I am told, “I don’t know.”
Really? There are only a handful of legally accurate answers to the same questions that get asked over and over again.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a patient has the right to request their full medical record set be sent to anyone, anywhere, at any time, and for any reason, without having to spend an unreasonable amount of time, or money, to make this happen. Without the need for intervention.
Not wishing to do myself out of a job, it really is as simple as that.
So how do we get there? Well, that’s the much harder part.
We get there by escalating records retrieval issues to the highest possible level, most often Chief Privacy Officers or Chief Compliance Officers, making sure they are aware that their HIM Department employees (or contractors) need a HIPAA refresher.
We get there by advocating for patients to ensure they get what they are entitled to.
We get there by educating patients nationwide so that they know their rights.
We get there by campaigning for what is right, what is lawful, and what is fair.
It is time to fix what is broken. All we need is for every HIM department out there to be both familiar and compliant with HIPAA in order for that to happen. That’s not unreasonable, is it?