By Robert B. Barnett Jr., J.D.
Banner Health agrees to a civil fine and various corrective actions to settle complaints that it unreasonably delayed providing patients with their medical records in violation of HIPAA.
Banner Health of Phoenix, Arizona, which operates 30 hospitals and numerous primary and specialty care facilities, has agreed to pay $200,000 and to take corrective actions in settlement of claims that Banner unreasonably delayed providing patients with their medical records in violation of HIPAA. The settlement was announced by HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, which launched in 2019 an initiative to enforce timely access to medical records called the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative (Resolution Agreement, January 6, 2021).
Background. In 2018, a lawyer complained to HHS on behalf of a client that Banner did not provide her with her requested medical records until six months after the request. In 2020, a different lawyer complained to HHS on behalf of a client that a different Banner provider did not provide the client with her requested medical records until seven months after the request. Shortly thereafter, HHS launched an investigation into Banner Health’s HIPAA compliance. The investigation supported the complaints the two lawyers filed, resulting in Banner Health agreeing to sign the resolution agreement.
Civil fine. Banner Health, without admitting liability, agreed to pay HHS $200,000.
Corrective action. In addition, Banner Health agreed to undertake a corrective action plan that included the following steps: (1) review and revise all existing policies on record requests; (2) provide HHS with the revised policies within 60 days of the settlement date for the purpose of HHS making further recommendations; (3) revise the policies in accord with HHS’s recommendations within 30 days; and (4) repeat the process until HHS approves the policies. Once approved, Banner Health will have 30 days to distribute the action plan to all employees, which shall include written or electronic verification of receipt by each employee. Banner Health is also required to assess and revise its policies at least annually. In addition, Banner Health has agreed to train all employees on the new policies within 60 after HHS approves them. Banner Health also agreed to various reporting requirements, to keep HHS abreast of developments. The HHS monitoring under the settlement agreement will continue for two years.
Right of Access Initiative. The Banner Health settlement is the fourteenth settlement that the Office for Civil Rights has obtained since the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative began.
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