Maryland-based Cignet Health has been slapped with a $4.3 million fine for its refusal to provide patients with copies of their health records, and for willfully failing to cooperate with the federal government's attempts to resolve the complaint, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
HHS's Office for Civil Rights said the fine is the first such "civil money penalty" imposed for violations of the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Calls to Mitchellville, MD-based Cignet on Tuesday afternoon were not immediately returned.
HHS's Office of Civil Rights said Cignet violated 41 patients' rights by denying them access to their medical records when requested between September 2008 and October 2009. The patients complained to OCR alleging that Cignet was violating the HIPAA rule that requires "covered entities" to provide patients with copies of their medical records within 30 days -- and no later than 60 days -- of the request, HHS said.
During the investigations, however, Cignet allegedly ignored OCR's demands to produce the records. A federal court issued a default judgment against Cignet on March 30, 2010. On April 7, 2010, Cignet gave the medical records to OCR, allegedly with no efforts to resolve the complaints through "informal means." OCR alleged that Cignet also failed to cooperate with the investigation from March 17, 2009, to April 7, 2010, indicating "Cignet's willful neglect to comply with the Privacy Rule." The failure to cooperate with OCR added $3 million to the civil money payment, HHS said.
John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.