March 12, 2024

I refunded money in exchange for a release from a patient. I just received an attorney letter and HIPAA Authorization requesting the patient's medical record.  What do I do now?  I have the release. 

Dr. J

Ok, let’s deal with the medical record request first before we get into the patient release. In every instance, a valid medical record request, which is one I would classify as being accompanied with a proper patient written request for the record, or validly executed HIPAA authorization form must be answered in a timely manner with the record requested provided.  If your practice has a policy for charging for production of the medical record, That’s fine  The accompany cost should be specified, and then the record provided.  Failing to respond to a medical record, request may result in a reporting to the office for civil rights, Which has the authority to audit and find you not properly complying with a valid HIPAA request. 

To your main point of contention… Why is an attorney requesting a record for a patient who is already signed a release and received a refund?  We live in a country where anyone can sue for pretty much any reason and then it’s the defendants turn to assert their affirmative defenses.  Here, the release obtained an affirmative defense that would be asserted in response to the lawsuit.  The release obtained is not an absolute barrier to the filing of a lawsuit.  My suggestion is to provide a copy of the release you have in hand along with the medical record request response, so that the requesting attorney can see your affirmative defense in advance and weigh whether or not to risk their time and effort on a litigation that may be thrown out very quickly, because the patient has already received their consideration in exchange for the release of any lawsuit. You may also want to let your insurance carrier know about the record request...We never want to risk disclaimer of coverage for lack of notice....