HealthPort: A New Way to “Stick It” to PatientsPosted: May 12, 2012
by C. Arthur Reavis
Not too long ago I had records of a chest x-ray (or so I thought) sent from Albert Einstein Transplant Center to a local UHS doctor for a minor surgical procedure. I thought it was better to send records (two films) of my insides rather get another dose of electromagnetic radiation: a proven carcinogen. The HIPPA compliant release I signed was supposed to be for 2 films ONLY! At the bottom of the UHS releases in VERY fine print was a clause that stated that for “some” records they (UHS) could charge me $0.75 per page: when they were sending records. Not receiving them! There was no explanation as to which records did or did not incur patient cost. There was no mention of third parties charging me. There was also no mention of me giving any third party permission to copy, view or store (even temporarily) my records. There was no third party mentioned at all. The whole point of having these records transferred was to avoid a an unnecessary shot of radiation. Also, I was not requesting these films to perform this procedure, but my surgeon was. And UHS was receiving the films, they were merely faxing the request.
Imagine my surprise when I received a bill in the mail for $31.32 from a company I was damn sure I had never heard of or dealt with before called HealthPort. (Yes they capitalize the “p” in the middle of their name…quaint isn’t it?) I was sure this was some sort of mistake especially given the fact that according to the invoice I received the records did not originate from Einstein, but from someplace called Mercy Medical Associates, who incidentally had no record of me as a patient. Moreover, the invoice was for 22 pages! Two billed at $0.99 and 20 billed at 1.34. There was a copy of the release I signed for UHS. It was my signature, it was a copy of the release I signed: I was perplexed!
I called HealthPort to try and find out why I was being billed and to get the bill voided, since I signed NOTHING giving HealthPort permission to handle MY medical records. Certainly this bill was not my responsibility because after all I was not the person requesting these films, it was my surgeon who wanted them. I just didn’t want an unnecessary x-ray.
It took 4 calls to finally speak to a supervisor at HealthPort. Customer service reps hung up on me once and twice refused (once very rudely) before I they allowed me to speak to “Dwight” the supervisor. Dwight insisted that his company had every right to bill me and since I signed the release I was indeed the person requesting the information (not my surgeon) but I could take a 30% discount on my bill, because the release I signed said I could be charged $0.75 per page. Keep in mind that even with a 30% discount it is still approximately $5.00 more than $0.75 per page. I refused the discount and said I was not going to pay anything because after all I only gave permission for two films, not 22 pages.
Now I was curious, why was a third party handling MY information and billing me? I called the UHS business office and a they claimed never to have heard of HealthPort and insisted that they do not charge patients for records. Puzzling?
It was not until the office manager at the surgeon’s office did an investigation and found that HealthPort is being utilized by UHS. She also claimed that they do “sometimes” charge for health records. Apparently the HealthPort contract was new. Moreover, she did say that she would have the office deal with charges. Great! But where did this company come from? How did they operate? I needed to know more.
I posed as an office manager, “Leon Trotski,” working for “JC Proctology.” I inquired about setting up HealthPort at my fictitious office to find out what HealthPort did and how they operated?
According to HealthPorts own information, they save the medical facility or clinic money because HealthPort provides all the equipment and staffing to digitally capture a patient’s medical records, store them in their facility and send them where they are requested. Additionally, HealthPort claims to be HIPPA compliant and assumes all liabilities. Moreover, they state: “Will HealthPort bill our patients and physicians? Only patients that request copies of their medical records for personal reasons are billed by us according to state specified rates. Physicians, medical groups, clinics and/or patients needing copies of medical records for continuing care purposes will not be billed.” Funny but I seem to remember being told by a HealthPort supervisor that because I signed the release I was the person requesting the information. And that if it were my doctor that needed the information he would have had to signed the release.
It’s my information, the ONLY way that my doctor can gain access to it is to have me release it to him. The only way to have that happen is have me sign the release. Also, never mind the fact that I was requesting TWO pages and they sent 22! That does not sound very HIPPA complaint to me. Moreover, according to HealthPort they are limited in some states as to how much they can charge, but if you live in a state that that does not have a limit they get to set the rate and call it “reasonable.”
The internet is riddled with complaints about HealthPort. From individuals who have worked there to one patient who claim to have received a bill for sending records from their GP to a “specialist” at the GP’s request down the hall in the same building. Additionally, the citizens of Arkansas have filed a class-action suit against HealthPort for charging illegal fees that HealthPort called a “sales tax” when medical records were requested.
Why then am I writing an article about my experience with Health Port?
I’m writing this article to inform the public that when you are asked to sign a release of information you should expect a bill in the mail if HealthPort is copying your records and storing them electronically in their Atlanta Georgia facility. (All of their documents are supposedly stored here! They claim it’s safe and secure, but then so did every other business that has been hacked!) I’m also trying to expose a business that is clearly taking advantage of a citizenry. Photocopying and sending records from one doctor’s office to another should be part of the cost operating a medical office. If a patient’s doctor wants to charge for that “service” well I guess they can: but they really should NOT burden patients with that cost: we pay the most for healthcare of any industrialized nation already. HealthPort is just one more corporation bleeding the people. They do not charge the medical facility anything for this service. The costs are assumed by
What can one do to prevent this? I’m not 100% sure. But I have been putting on all permissions to treat forms as well as any other admission type form that I am asked to sign the following: “There is to be no third party access to my medical records by HealthPort, Medscan or any other copying company. Furthermore, UHS (or what ever facility it is that is requesting my signature) assumes all financial responsibility for copy and/or mailing records.” Does this work? I’m not sure, but I have not yet been denied treatment nor have I received bill. I suggest we all do this!