If your practice receives a subpoena for medical records, it’s important to stay calm. Although you have to toe the line between complying with the subpoena and protecting patient privacy, there are important questions you must answer before sending the records.
Check out the four questions you should always ask when you get a subpoena for medical records.
When Did You Receive the Subpoena?
Before you begin to address the subpoena for medical records or start discussing it with an attorney, you’ll need to know the specific date you received it. Letting it sit on your desk for weeks before addressing it is the wrong move, because time is of the essence with subpoenas.
Because subpoenas typically have a 15-day turnaround requirement, you must act quickly when one arrives. So know when you got it and document that date somewhere so you can have clear information if and when you do talk to a lawyer about it.
When Is the Response Due?
As soon as you get the subpoena, you’ll need to start prepping your response, with the goal to respond before the deadline — and this requires you to know when that deadline actually is.
Preparing a response takes time, even for a seasoned healthcare attorney, and requires going through your documents and records. That’s why it’s essential to have a deadline in mind from the beginning, so you can ensure that your response is ready well ahead of that date.
Who Sent the Subpoena?
You can never assume that the subpoena came from a court or even an attorney. It may be directly from a government agency, such as the Office of Civil Rights or the Department of Justice. The source of the subpoena will be essential in creating your response, because in some cases, the response must include specific items that are dependent on the requestor.
How Was the Subpoena Delivered to You?
A subpoena can’t simply be dropped into someone’s chair at your office, but the rules for serving them are different in each jurisdiction, and depend on whether they’re civil, criminal administrative or another type. For instance, some subpoenas cannot be served on Sundays or holidays, but the source may still attempt to serve them to you.
Knowing how the subpoena was delivered may be essential to your response and your lawyer’s next steps, so be sure to document the delivery method, date, location and time when you get a subpoena for medical records.
Your next step is to talk all of the information you gathered by asking the above four questions and start crafting your response, ideally with the help of a healthcare attorney who is skilled in medical record release laws.
It can be startling to receive a subpoena, but if you know the specifics about responding, you can rest assured that you’re only releasing the appropriate records. Attorney Michael R. Lowe, Esq. can show you how during his online training, Subpoena Release of Medical Records: Avoid Costly Response Errors. Register today!
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