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LawTalk, Attorney
Category: Legal
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A medical practice with multiple locations routinely

Customer Question

A medical practice with multiple locations routinely transfers patient files to different offices. The files are removed from a given office at night, stored in an employee's car trunk overnight and then delivered to the appropriate office the following morning. Upwards of 50 to 100 records are transported every week and this practice has been ongoing for several years.
Is this a HIPPA violation ? If so, can the practice still be held accountable even though it is in the process of converting to electronic medical records ?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good morning,

I'm Doug, and I'm sorry to hear of the confusion. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

HIPAA as it effected medical records, primarily related to electronic copies of those records and transfer of those records. For the most part, there is little control over hard copy/paper files.

The U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) stated that HIPAA Covered Entities are required to "make reasonable efforts to limit access to PHI to those in the workforce who need access based on their roles." In addition, the OCR states that Covered Entities should take "reasonable precautions to prevent inadvertent or unnecessary disclosures."

HIPAA essentially requires only that the files be protected by locking file cabinets. Qualifying procedures include actions "such as isolating and locking file cabinets or record rooms, or providing additional security, such as passwords on computers maintaining personal information."

While a locked car trunk is certainly not ideal, the fact that medical records are stored overnight in a locked car trunk does not automatically qualify as a violation of HIPAA regulations.

You may reply back to me using the Reply link and I will be happy to continue to assist you until I am able to address your concerns, to your satisfaction.

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I wish you and yours the best this holiday season,