Limiting HIPAA Harm

Will a HIPAA glitch prevent you from accessing your cloud-based medical record after closure of your physician’s practice? Some answers to questions I posed last year in Getting Your Records After I'm Gone follow.

Wondering how I might access my own medical record if my physician died or closed his practice I contacted Practice Fusion, the same cloud-based EMR I use for records of patients I treat. According to Practice Fusion HIPAA prevents them from accessing the records of individual patients which would prevent them from providing record access to the patient without involvement of the physician.

Suppose my doctor closes his practice. My state requires physicians to provide records for a year after practice closure. What if I want my record years after practice closure, and I know that it remains at Practice Fusion? No mechanism exists for me to obtain the record directly from them. When I asked what would happen if my attorney obtained a court order, PF customer support told me the company would try to comply, but who knows how -- or how well -- that would work? They also indicated that as it stands the physician would have to download patient files in order to respond to patient authorizations for release.

If true, this may represent a glaring failure of HIPAA as well as a missed business opportunity for EMR vendors. HIPAA does require physicians to release the medical record to the patient, with a few exceptions, if the patient so requests, but HIPAA should also require vendors to maintain accessibility to patient records for years after practice closure, and allow the vendors to charge a fee for such access.

I believe patients should have guaranteed direct access to their electronic records via computer. Physicians should assume the patient will eventually read their records when they create them and create them accordingly. Perhaps EMR vendors could also incorporate mechanisms for redacting portions of the record thought inappropriate for viewing by the patient in such a way that only other specified individuals, such as other physicians could view them.


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