Navigating the Legal Minefield of Collecting Medical Records
As an attorney, obtaining medical records for your clients can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. However, by being prepared and understanding the issues involved, you can minimize delays and become more efficient in this task. Below are four key issues to keep in mind when requesting medical records for your clients.
Medical records are confidential under HIPAA, and as an attorney, you will need to provide appropriate privileges to obtain copies of medical records. This can be in the form of a Medical Records Release signed by your client or a subpoena, court order, or similar document. Ensure that your release form is HIPAA compliant and includes specific time frames for the records you are seeking. Analog signatures are often required, so make sure you have the necessary paperwork in order.
Providers may charge you or your client for these records, but there may be limitations on what can be charged depending on the state. If the request comes from your client, it is usually much cheaper than if it comes from you or your firm. HIPAA, HITECH, and the CURES Act limit charges if the request is made by the patient. Ensure you are prepared for an argument about fees that may delay obtaining records.
Sending records electronically is faster, cheaper, and results in better-quality documents. Avoid using email, Dropbox, or similar systems, as most of these transfers are not HIPAA compliant. Licensing a system that facilitates electronic requests and returns of medical records can save time and money, even for radiology or digital pathology slides.
Requests from your client are subject to the CURES Act, usually not more than thirty days. Delays may occur if the information is incorrect or incomplete, requiring additional requests. Avoid waiting until the last minute to request medical records.
By being aware of these four issues, you can become more efficient and prepared when obtaining medical records for your clients. With the right knowledge and tools, this onerous process can become more bearable for attorneys.