Florida-based Korunda Medical must pay $85,000 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for failing to give a patient timely access to medical records.
The settlement is the second enforcement action taken under the Right of Access Initiative launched earlier this year to combat information blocking at healthcare facilities.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA) Right of Access Initiative, OCR intends to "vigorously enforce" the rights of patients to get access to their medical records promptly, without being overcharged and in the readily producible format of their choice, the agency said in a press release.
OCR charged that Korunda Medical, a primary care and interventional pain management practice, took too long to fulfill a patient's record request.
The agency said it received a complaint in March concerning a Korunda patient alleging that, despite repeatedly asking, the medical practice failed to forward a patient's medical records in electronic format to a third party.
The practice also failed to provide the records in the requested electronic format and charged more than the reasonably cost-based fees allowed under HIPAA, OCR charged.
The medical practice failed to comply despite multiple complaints and technical assistance from OCR, the agency said.
"For too long, healthcare providers have slow-walked their duty to provide patients their medical records out of a sleepy bureaucratic inertia. We hope our shift to the imposition of corrective actions and settlements under our Right of Access Initiative will finally wake up healthcare providers to their obligations under the law," Roger Severino, OCR director, said in a statement.
In addition to the penalty, Korunda Medical agreed to put in a corrective action plan (PDF) that includes monitoring from the OCR for one year, the agency said.
The enforcement action comes as HHS is taking regulatory moves to end information blocking.
In February, HHS released a proposed rule that outlined fines for the practice. The rule was required by the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law in 2016.
Stakeholders that violate the rule, which has yet to be finalized, could wind up paying as much as $1 million per information blocking infraction. HHS also wants to “name and shame” hospitals and physicians that block information by putting offenders on the Physician Compare website.