The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”) establishes national standards to protect your medical records and other personal health information. However, when someone is injured in a car or trucking accident, or through toxic chemical exposures, they are putting their health – both pre-injury and post-injury – at issue. Medical records typically protected by HIPPA become important evidence. Your lawyers need your records to prove your injuries. Defense lawyers will want them in order to challenge the extent and cause of your injuries. However, your healthcare provider cannot release the medical records simply because you hired a lawyer or filed a lawsuit. They need your explicit permission to do so.
There are two main ways to gather medical records for your case. The first is with a HIPPA waiver form. The HIPPA waiver gives your healthcare providers permission to release your records directly to your lawyers and/or the defendant. Because medical records are often extensive, this method can be expensive. The second is through a patient’s letter under the HITECH Act. This can be a significantly easier and cheaper alternative, although it has a few important requirements as well.
A traditional HIPPA waiver is sent to the healthcare provider. It includes:
- The patient’s name, and an authorization for a release of the protected health information as specified in the release.
- A description of the information and records to be disclosed, including the dates the healthcare provider saw the patient.
- The name of the person or entity that is authorized to release the records, as well as the person or entity that is authorized to receive the records.
- An expiration date for the authorization so it cannot be used later, or in a way not explicitly authorized by the patient. This is typically a year after the date the patient signs the authorization.
- A right to revoke the authorization at any time and an acknowledgement that the protected health information may no longer be protected by HIPPA or other federal laws.
They also typically include a recognition that treatment, payment, enrollment in a health plan, or eligibility for health insurance benefits may not be conditioned on signing the authorization. As well as a statement that the patient has a right to a copy of the authorization. The patient signs the document, and includes their social security number and date of birth. The bill for gathering and producing these records can be in the thousands of dollars. However, under HITECH, a flat fee for electronic records should be limited, and may have significant cost advantages.
HITECH is meant to remove the barriers between patients and their records — including the barrier associated with inordinately high costs of obtaining those records. The patient will send a written request. The request must be made and signed by the individual. Not his or her attorneys. While the cost for electronic records should be limited to a reasonable amount, if the individual requests the records be produced in paper format, the charges may increase significantly. An important aspect of the HITECH request is that while the individual makes the request, they can designate any person as a recipient, including their attorneys. The HITECH act is intended to increase patient access to their medical records and can provide significant advantages in that regard.
Depending on your particular circumstances, one or the other of these methods may be right for your case. Personal injury attorneys and the staff at Stag Liuzza are well versed in obtaining medical records and can help you obtain the evidence you need to prove your personal injuries and protect your rights. To learn about your legal rights, call Stag Liuzza to schedule a free confidential consultation.