Providers charging even $1 per page for EHR access could be violating HIPAA, report warns

Long-term care providers that charge people to access their electronic health records might be violating federal law, according to recently released findings from the American Health Information Management Association.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires healthcare providers to furnish patients with paper or electronic copies of their EHR on request. The providers are allowed to charge only the related labor and supply costs, but many are not calculating their charges using these criteria, according to a recent survey done by the AHIMA Foundation and Texas State University.

Out of 313 AHIMA members who responded, about a quarter said they base their charges on state regulations. This “would suggest the fees are not uniquely based on the cost to the facility” and therefore violate HIPAA, according to the recently published survey findings.

The rates might violate HIPAA even if they seem to be reasonable, emphasized author Kim Murphy-Abdouch, MPH, RHIA, FACHE, of the Health Information Management Department at Texas State University. About 65% of respondents said they charge less than $1.00 per page, she noted.

The results suggest that health information management professionals should evaluate facility practices to ensure compliance, Murphy-Abdouch concluded. These workers also should seek to educate patients about how to access EHRs through online portals, which would eliminate the need for special charges.

The majority of survey respondents were affiliated with hospitals or integrated delivery systems, but long-term care also was represented. Click here for the complete report.