NCCHC Releases Position Statement Supporting Provision of Health Records to Patients Upon Release From Incarceration
As a member of the policy and research committee and someone whose career has focused on health information technology and health services administration, I am pleased to help announce NCCHC’s newest position statement, Sharing of Patient Health Records Upon Release From Incarceration.
Whether you are a small local jail or a large correctional facility housing thousands of incarcerated individuals, you are providing ongoing health care to your patients in many forms such as provider visits, medication administration, dental care, or mental health counseling. These encounters are documented in the patient’s medical record for many reasons but the most important one is continuity of care — whether inside the walls or upon reentry to the community.
We have all experienced calls from recently released individuals looking for a copy of their medical records so they can secure a bed in a residential facility or schedule a doctor’s appointment for continuing care for their diabetes or heart disease, or even provide proof they tested negative for COVID just last week. When correctional facilities are proactive in providing basic information to the individual at the time of release or within several days post-release, the patient is more likely to receive an appointment for follow-up care. When the facility does not have a procedure in place, the barriers in obtaining these documents seem impossible to overcome and many will give up in frustration — often leading to emergency room visits or worse outcomes from lack of care.
HIPAA was put in place to provide patients with access to their own personal health information. Health care provided in the correctional environment is part of the health care delivery system. When correctional facilities share these records with patients, their health care providers, community health centers, and other partners, it allows our patients opportunities for better outcomes.
As state and regional Health Information Exchanges continue to build their platforms with greater access to PHI, correctional facilities need to be included in the discussions and, by doing so, provides community providers with readily accessible health care information at the time of the encounter. This can also eliminate the duplication of tests already performed during incarceration.
As patients prepare to return to the community, correctional facilities need to be part of the discussion so the transition is seamless and the patient’s health care needs can be met in a timely manner. The goal is to eliminate the barriers that can cause delays in ongoing treatment and care. A successful reentry plan is a win for all involved.
By Pauline M. Marcussen, DHA, RHIA, CCHP,
Liaison to the NCCHC Board of Representatives from the American Health Information Management Association