AIS FOIA Request Provides Inside Look at OCR Investigative Tactics

Submitted by LDieringer on Fri, 12/12/2014 - 9:41am

In continuing coverage of a recently announced settlement between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and a nonprofit health system that left boxes of patient files on a former doctor’s driveway after a planned acquisition of the doctor’s practice fell apart, Atlantic Information Services, Inc.’s (AIS) Report on Patient Privacy conducted a review of hundreds of documents related to the case (Complaint Number 09-99157), obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. As detailed in RPP’s December issue, the documents provide an inside look into how the agency conducts investigations and the processes the agency uses to develop a resolution agreement.

For its part, RPP found, OCR was very thorough: not contacting Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Parkview Health System, Inc. until it had amassed a great deal of information, nearly two years after Dr. Christine Hamilton filed her complaint. Then-Acting Regional Manager for OCR Region V Celeste Davis made multiple requests for data from Parkview, including information on how the hospital handled previous acquisitions and specific details on each of the various steps regarding Dr. Hamilton’s files, including those who negotiated the “potential” purchase as well as who decided Parkview should not go through with it.

The most revealing documents RPP obtained were those that address how OCR decided which regulations were violated, what penalties to apply, and what a corrective action plan (CAP) would look like. According to RPP, the documents show changes over time, likely as a result of negotiations with Parkview. As the number of violations dropped, so did the settlement amounts and the length and breadth of the CAP. Although OCR ultimately signed an agreement with Parkview for $800,000 and a one-year CAP, OCR did appear to have successfully pressed for the highest level of penalty, willful neglect not corrected. Continue>>>
======