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AZ Patients Gain Access to Health Records in Shutdown EHR System

A superior court judge approved a plan to reactivate an EHR system used by two closed Arizona hospitals to give patients access to their records.

Patients at 2 Arizona hospitals gained access to their health records on a repossessed EHR system.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A Maricopa County Superior Court judge recently approved a plan to use $92,000 in assets from two closed Arizona hospitals to pay the fee needed to reactive a shutdown EHR system and enable patients to access their health records, according to abc15.  

When the hospitals closed last summer, a MEDHOST EHR system containing patient health records was repossessed and rendered inaccessible. Creditors for Florence Hospital and Gilbert Hospital quarreled over who was responsible to cover the cost of activating and retrieving patient health records from the system for months.

More than 300 Florence and Gilbert Hospital patients were denied access to their patient EHRs while the hospitals’ creditors argued over who is financially responsible for activating the systems. Arizona college student Caitlin Secrist was among the many patients experiencing ongoing problems attempting to gain access to her complete health information.

Difficulties obtaining her patient EHR halted Secrist’s efforts to receive life-saving surgery. A physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital refused to perform surgery on Secrist to resolve issues related to her pancreatitis before viewing her complete medical history.

Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman stated during a hearing that there was no functioning hospital able to produce Secrist’s health record. The judge ruled the most efficient and inexpensive way for Secrist to obtain her health record was to use remaining assets from both hospitals to reactivate the EHR system for 90 days.

As part of the ruling, Brodman stated the hospitals should publicize the reactivation to ensure patients are aware that they have a chance to retrieve their health records within the court-ordered 90 day window. Brodman also stated the hospitals should hire employees to respond to patient EHR access requests and collect health records from the MEDHOST EHR system.

New York lender Indigo-DLI Holdings may appeal to stop the plans in an effort to avoid losing money. The lender is set to recoup money from the now-bankrupt hospitals.

“This is a very important issue,” said Indigo-DLI Holdings attorney Kyle Hirsch, according to abc15. “If the patients want their records they should pay a reasonable fee . But imposing the entire expense on Indigo doesn't seem fair.”

Secrist is expected to receive her complete health information in two to three weeks if Indigo-DLI Holdings fails to halt the plan through appeal.

“It's a good feeling,” Secrist told abc15. “I can finally get those records and get on my way to getting better.”

Former Florence and Gilbert hospital patients will likely have an opportunity to obtain and review their patient health records from March through May.

ONC and CMS is taking steps to streamline patient access to health information through a proposed rule on interoperability and information blocking.

As part of the proposed rules, ONC will identify practices which do not constitute information blocking. These proposed exceptions will assist in defining information blocking more clearly.

One exception to the information blocking rule allows healthcare organizations or health IT vendors to recover a reasonable cost to allow for the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a key component of the proposed rules to enable health data access and exchange for patients.

Promoting the use of APIs including the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard will help to ensure patients have timely access to their information. The FHIR standard allows healthcare organizations to engage in discrete data sharing rather than document-based exchange.

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