March 28, 2013
On March 26, new HIPAA requirements for patient records took effect. If your dental office uses electronic records systems, you may now be required to provide electronic copies of records to patients who request them. Dental offices can no longer simply provide printed records in lieu of electronic copies.
Under the new rules, a dental healthcare provider must provide electronic copies of records in the form and format the patient requests. However, dentists are not required to provide the records on media (like flash drives or CDs) provided by the patient and are not required to give individuals direct access to the office’s data systems. Where a patient’s record is part hard copy and part electronic, the dentist can provide both hard copies and electronic copies.
Also, when the format requested by the patient is not readily available, there is no requirement that the dental healthcare provider needs to purchase new software to accommodate the individual. The dentist must be able to accommodate the patient’s request by providing at least one machine-readable electronic format (like Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, Excel, PDF, etc). Should this accommodation be rejected by the patient, the dental office only needs to provide a hard copy of that patient’s record.
Dental offices must also have a printed records release form available for patients who request access to their records. Record requests must now be in writing and signed by the patient. If the patient desires their records be sent to a third-party, the patient must clearly identify to whom and where the information should be sent.
Look for a full update on recent HIPAA changes in the upcoming Spring 2013 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association, published in April.