The HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act is important for law firms and their clients, and is considered an apt solution for high medical record retrieval costs. Medical records are the prime evidence in many types of claims, and the cost of retrieving them can be huge. The HITECH Act puts a rein on facilities charging exorbitant fees for medical records that are already created and stored electronically. Though enacted in 2009, this Act has received attention only recently. It applies to traditional medical providers that are the custodians of electronic records as well as to any contracted company the medical providers may use to manage their medical records. There are scenarios where some medical facilities continue to overcharge patients for their medical records quoting some internal policy or state law. That is where most patients consult attorneys who can in turn educate medical facilities about the pre-emptive nature of HITECH (federal law pre-empts state law, which means that HITECH prevails.)
- A medical provider that does not store 100% electronic medical records is not required to comply with HITECH.
- Medical facilities must make the records available within 30 days of the receipt of the written request.
- Violations of this Act could lead to penalties and fines to unwilling medical providers, which could range from $50,000 to $1.5 million.
- With the exception of psychotherapy records, this Act requires that medical facilities that maintain electronic records must make such records available to patients who request them at no more than the cost of labor and copying supplies.
- HITECH does not allow charging patients for overhead costs such as maintaining computer systems.
- This Act strictly precludes excessive charges and reduces “reasonable” cost to a few dollars.
- HITECH is indeed a cost-saving benefit.
How is HITECH cost-saving for attorneys? Compared to ordering paper medical records from medical record custodians or contracted copying companies, the expenses involved in copying data to a CD or transmitting electronic records should be nominal. Here are some other important facts:
- The patient/individual must place the request for the medical records, and not the attorney representing him/her.
- The patient/individual can, however, designate the receipt of the medical records to their attorney or other third party. The request should be made in writing, signed by the individual, and must clearly authorize the person and clearly state where to send a copy of the PHI.
- It is best for lawyers to obtain signatures from their clients early enough and create the proper forms granting authorization for them to collect the medical records on their clients’ behalf.
- HIPAA releases are not mandatory because the request is being made by the patients themselves.
Medical record retrieval companies understand that HITECH offers a clear-cut, economical method for obtaining the much needed medical records for personal injury and social security disability cases. Medical record review for attorneys will also pick up speed, which will in turn facilitate case preparation and settlement. Lawyers can, by utilizing the full potential of HITECH, cut costs for their clients as well as their firms.