New HIPAA Rules going into effect soon give patients more power over their protected health information and help curb abuses by hospital corporations and their contractors.  Many patients who have suffered a needless injury in the hospital become frustrated in their attempts to get a complete copy of their records by hospitals and medical records companies when they are faced with high costs for copies of those records.  The Texas Legislature years ago required that hospital corporations provide records at a low cost if they are requested in electronic format only - and if the records are ordinarily kept in electronic format only.  But, even now, many hospital corporations and record service providers claim that the records are not stored in electronic format and continue to charge high costs.  They also give patients the run-around when they know or suspect that the patient is going to give those records to a lawyer.  But, with the new HIPAA rules going into effect medical records companies will be covered by HIPAA rules and it is made clear that a patient's attorney is allowed to get a copy of those records under the same rules and regulations that apply to the patient's requesting them. And the requirements apply to electronic records.

Here are a few of the important changes:

a. Business Associates and subcontractors of Covered Entities will be held to the same HIPAA standards as the Covered Entity itself and will be subject to HIPAA compliance audits. 

b. Business Associates will have a widened definition including companies that sell, maintain or transmit private health information (PHI). 

c. Data breaches of PHI will now be presumed when data is compromised, which requires more reporting and notification to individuals and state authorities of such data breaches by Covered Entities. This is a significant expansion of the notification/reporting requirement and may affect insurance companies and possibly private corporations investigating health or injury-related claims. 

d. Patients are now entitled to a copy of their electronic medical record. Previously HIPAA entitled patients to a paper copy, but if the record is maintained by the Covered Entity in electronic format, the patient is entitled to a copy in electronic format. In my opinion, this will be the most interesting development for CLNC® consultants and attorneys as the electronic record will need to be viewed and interpreted. There will also be questions regarding meta-data, actual EMR/EHR formats and readability/usability. 

e. Patients may designate in writing that their records be sent to a third-party such as an attorney. 

f. If a patients pays out-of-pocket for a treatment they may request that the treatment, etc., NOT be reported to their health plan. This will not only complicate record keeping for the entities doing the testing, but is sure to make insurance companies and health plans take a closer look at what tests a patient may be having and infer what other tests may have also been done.

Get your copy of the HHS press release and the related Code of Federal Regulations at this link:


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