Who Owns Medical Records in the Digital Age?

Determining who owns medical records in the age of electronic health records remains somewhat ambiguous. In fact, recent issues at the University of Rochester Medical Center highlight the confusion as the health provider recently reached settlement over a violation of protected health information because a nurse practitioner took patient information to a new practice. Thus, the relevant question is whether the provider, the physician, the electronic health record provider, or the patient own the information?

Many patients assume the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides ownership of health information to the patient, but the law, in fact, fails to specify. Largely, this issue is left to state legislatures to determine, but the majority of states have failed to address the issue. According to a recent survey by the George Washington University’s Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, only New Hampshire provides ownership of medical records to the patient, while in 20 other states, the healthcare provider owns them.

In the age of electronic health records, patient data is quickly shareable between physicians, patients, and other individuals. This poses new legal challenges for healthcare providers and physicians, especially as the laws and regulations on protected health information continue to evolve and state attorneys general start to enforce the privacy laws under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. This means that physicians and healthcare providers of all types should ensure that their internal policies on health records fully comply with the evolving legal landscape.

© 2015 Houghton Vandenack Williams
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HHS Offers HIT Grants to Help States Establish Exchanges

The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has announced that five states will receive grants to design the technology needed for health insurance exchanges.

States (and coalitions of states) have the opportunity to compete for the two-year “Early Innovator” grants, which will help pay the cost of developing and implementing the information technology infrastructure for establishing the exchanges.  The models developed by the grant recipients will then be made available for other states to use to help establish their exchanges.

The grants will be awarded by February 15, 2011.  They will be given to states with ambitious but attainable proposals that have the ability to generate IT models that can serve as best practices.

HHS has not determined how much money grant recipients will receive.  Rather, HHS will look to the states to determine how much their proposals would cost.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“PPACA”) requires states to implement the insurance exchanges by 2014, which are envisioned as websites to compare insurance plans.

© 2010 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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56 Organizations Agree on Priorities for “Meaningful Use” Program

According to recommendations from a large collaboration of organizations, the success of the new federal incentives program for health information technology (“HIT”) largely depends on a specific set of health improvement goals, a prioritized set of metrics, and the widespread participation of health care providers and patients.

Health care leaders from 56 different organizations filed a joint public comment on the program, which is part of the economic stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”). The Markle Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings coordinated the collaborative comments on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program.

The joint public comment recommends priorities to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), which will manage the new Medicare and Medicaid subsidies to doctors and hospitals for “meaningful use” of HIT starting in 2011. 

The comment requests that HHS make clear a set of health improvement goals such as improving medication management and reducing readmissions to hospitals, so that everyone can contribute to these priorities.

Peter Basch, MD, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said: “As a practicing physician who has gone through the process of implementing health IT, I can say that it’s critical to set a bar that is ambitious but also achievable for the many diverse practices and hospitals that might participate in this program. We point out areas in which HHS can lower burdens on physicians without losing focus on the important goals of using health IT in ways that improve the patient’s experience and outcomes.”

Among other things, the collaborative letter stressed that the HIT program should encourage broad participation of providers by prioritizing the requirements necessary to receive payments and should enhance the ability of patients to obtain electronic copies of their health information. 

© 2010 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

  For more information, contact info@pvwlaw.com