Records Releases: Read Before You Sign

Apparently a former patient his filed a lawsuit against a treatment provider in another state, so a law firm representing the defendant wants me to send them copies of medical records. In the past I have required the former patient to sign my own authorization form, but based on recent advice I am willing to release records if I can match the signature to one file and the authorization provided me seems to meet muster.

I pulled the file; the signature matched. I prepared to respond to the authorization, but then I decided I should read the authorization in detail. One might assume that attorneys at what appears to be a medium-sized law firm would be capable of properly writing such a document. However, when I read excerpts of the document that appear below I discovered that the former patient had not authorized me to release the records all, but only authorized the law firm to "obtain, copy or inspect" the records.

"AUTHORIZATION FOR RELEASE OF MEDICAL INFORMATION BILLS

Dear Custodian of Records:

"I, John Doe, initiated a claim against Paragon Provider, who is represented by the law firm RENAUD COOK DRURY MESAROS, PA, One North central, Suite 900, Phoenix, AZ 85004. I do hereby authorize RENAUD COOK DRURY MESAROS, PA, or any of its authorized representatives, to obtain, copy or inspect any and all the records, electronic records or charts, billings, hospital records, reports, diagnostic films and reports, lab reports, prescription orders, medication charts, admissions/discharge summaries, mental health records, records and reports regarding drug and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS and communicable disease records and any medical information whatsoever arising from my care and treatment."

Please tell me if you read anything in the paragraph above that authorizes me, moviedoc, to do anything? Given the idiosyncrasies of our judiciary system, I have little doubt that there exists a judge somewhere with sufficient hubris to "deem" the statement above to constitute authorization for me to release the records. I also suspect, cynical as I am, that there is a federal agency somewhere that would love to prosecute me for releasing (or failing to release, depending on the mood of the day) the records in response to this document. However, I cling to the belief that ordinary people like me should be able to rely on our own reading skills, without turning to a lawyer, in determining how to respond to such a document.

I sent an email to the law firm:

"Dear Cissy and Docket:

"You have sent me a document authorizing your firm to obtain records, but I will require authorization to RELEASE the records.

"While you're at it you might want to correct a few typos as well.

"Also:

  1. I am not a covered entity under HIPAA.
  2. I am bound by [my state's] medical records law and 42CFR
  3. Digital records do not come in 'pages.'"

Cissy Garcia, a paralegal at the firm, responded thus:

"Attached is a copy of our letter request which was mailed to you on May 16, 2013. You will note that page 3 is the release signed by [John Doe]. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us at your convenience.

"Thank you, Cissy"

Attached I found copies of the same documents.

I am inclined to stick to my guns and wait until I have authorization for me to release the records before responding further.

How would you proceed?

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