What is the HITECH Act? by: Vancouver, WA Accident Attorney Colin Scott

Important Law Protects Consumers in Personal Injury Cases

Below are some frequently asked questions about the HITECH Act. The law was enacted in 2009 and is regularly used by Vancouver, WA personal injury attorney Colin Scott and The Scott Law Firm, PLLC to save money for clients!

What is the HITECH Act and how does it work?

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health (HITECH) Act is a federal law that was enacted by Congress in 2009. It is designed to “promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology.” One of the primary motivations for creating the HITECH law was to make sure that healthcare providers implement a system for maintaining and sharing electronic health records (e.g. doctors, hospitals, and patients). The law provides, among other things, that patients have a right to access their medical records without incurring unnecessary “handling” or “per-page” copying fees.

Why is the HITECH Act useful in personal injury cases?

Medical records form the basis of damages in virtually every personal injury case. Therefore, it is essential for personal injury attorneys to have access to their clients’ medical records. In this past, the process of obtaining medical records was quite expensive, sometimes costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Fortunately that is no longer the case.

Does the HITECH Act save money?

Yes, the HITECH law is intended to save money for the entire healthcare system by improving efficiency. However, some healthcare providers are upset they can no longer charge “handling” and “per-page” copying fees.

How much will it cost to obtain my medical records under the HITECH Act?

Medical records stored in digital format must be produced for a flat fee of $6.50. Alternatively, your healthcare provider may charge a fee that is “reasonable [and] cost based” (i.e. actual labor costs incurred for producing the records—such as labor costs needed to transfer the records onto a CD-ROM and mail them to the patient). Your healthcare provider must provide advance notice if they elect not to charge a flat fee.

My medical care provider uses a third-party vendor to process all medical records requests. Can they charge me for this?

No, HITECH prohibits healthcare providers from passing third party copying expenses onto their patients. This may seem harsh, but it’s important to remember the policy behind HITECH is to promote efficiency (and lower costs) by encouraging healthcare providers to implement a system of maintaining and sharing medical records that can be freely accessed.

Can medical care providers charge an administrative fee to verify the patient’s electronic record?

No, the HITECH Act specifically prohibits this type of administrative charge. Healthcare providers are also prohibited under the HITECH Act from charging to verify that a patient’s complete record has been produced.

How much time do healthcare providers have to respond to a HITECH request?

The requested records must be produced within 30 days. If the patient’s healthcare provider cannot produce the records within 30 days, they must notify the patient and give a valid reason for the delay.

What if my medical care provider claims they don’t keep records in digital format?

If you are a patient and have requested digital copies of your medical records, the HITECH Act requires your medical care provider must produce the records in electronic format—even if it involves scanning the paper records individually, transferring them onto a CD-ROM, and then mailing them to you.

How are x-rays and CT scans produced?

If the records are stored digitally, they must be produced in digital form for a flat rate of $6.50. If the imaging is not readily available in digital format, the healthcare provider may charge a reasonable, cost based fee for transferring the records onto a CD-ROM or DVD and then mailing the requested records to the patient.

Does HITECH require a HIPAA release?

No, if the patient signs a letter asking for copies of their medical records, the patient’s signature serves as the authorization and no HIPAA release is required.

What if my healthcare provider claims the records cannot be provided securely?

Healthcare providers are not responsible for disclosure of information while in transmission (such as when data is transmitted over the internet). However, they are responsible if your protected health information is sent to the wrong recipient (such as the wrong mailing address, fax number, or email address).

Can I use HITECH to request copies of my medical records be sent to my attorney?

Yes, healthcare providers are required under the HITECH Act to send the records to whatever destination the patient chooses. The request must simply be made in writing and signed by the patient. A HIPAA release is not required.

Do you have any additional questions about HITECH?

If you have been injured due to someone else’s carelessness and have questions about obtaining copies of your medical records under the HITECH Act, contact The Scott Law Firm, PLLC and speak with a personal injury attorney about your legal matter today!

Disclaimer: Web content is not legal advice. Using this website does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about a legal matter, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the appropriate jurisdiction and is familiar with the facts in your situation. To learn more about how The Scott Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with a personal injury related matter, contact our office today for a free consultation: (360) 718-3640.