AHIMA Special Update: Release of Information Recommendations

AHIMA Special Update: Release of Information Recommendations

AHIMA has published this Special Update regarding release of patient health information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AHIMA developed these recommendations to help health information management professionals safeguard the integrity of their health systems’ quality control practices and help patients comply with increasingly widespread shelter-in-place orders.

Release of information services (ROI) must comply with a strict set of processes set forth by HIPAA and HITECH’s regulations to ensure that patients retain safe and secure control of their personal health information and record requests are timely, appropriate, and complete.

HIM professionals with questions or comments can publish them at the bottom of this post, or visit the COVID-19 community page on AHIMA Engage.

Recommendation 1

Temporarily Suspend Walk-in Access for Medical Records Inquiries

  • Work closely with your ROI vendor (if applicable) to ensure continuity
  • Display signage on doors and windows to redirect patients and families to alternative resources
  • Post record request changes to the organization’s web page and any automated messaging systems
  • Communicate changes to processes with Patient Access staff
Recommendation 2

Provide Patients and Families with Record Request Options

  • Phone authorization validation by HIM staff who witnesses and documents it in the record (if access is authorized)
  • Phone messages are directed to phone or patient portal
  • Provide instructions to obtain and complete authorization form
Recommendation 3

Validating Identity by Phone: 

  • Ask the patient for the following demographics to verify:
    • Date of birth
    • Home address
    • Last four of their Social Security number or other reliable demographic data elements that have been collected, such as a cell phone number, nickname, etc.
Additional Recommendations
  • Consider moving patient portal support to 24/7. If additional support staff are needed, evaluate training ramp-up with your information technology team.
  • Ensure record request advice is provided in different languages per your patient population
  • Educate providers and staff on the importance of the health information exchange (if applicable) and integration these technologies into the ROI workflow
Leave a comment


  1. Is there a CPT/HCPCS code for releasing copies of medical records.

  2. i would like to hear on the issues and opportunities on the HISM professionals during this COVID-19 pademic

  3. Is anyone offering emailed ROI for COVID positive patients who need their results for work, but who are being quarantined or are just our of quarantine?…or for patients in general if closing walk-in area?

  4. What is your recommendation for covid paperwork handled by healthcare professionals, is it considered contaminated? How are hospitals that still have people handling and scanning paperwork dealing with this situation?

  5. I am currently working at Mental Health and Addictions Centre in Southern Alberta, Canada. My question is; are there any documentation guidelines for charting clinical information during a crisis, such as the covid19? I know nursing staff are pressed for time these days as it is, but what type of recommendations can be forward to our staff during this time, in order to capture precious data which may be lost when this Covid19 is all said and done, or when the second wave comes, how can health information management teams, “drive-home” the importance of capturing good data before it’s too late and lost? What type of things would physicians, nurse clinicians, political leaders, health analysts, etc., etc. want to see in the future, or maybe there is going to be some kind of lawsuit from family members of those who have suffered from a crisis.

  6. What are the guidelines for releasing information related to COVID-19? Should it be released for continuation of care or patient right of access requests? Should full HIPAA authorization be required to release? What are the possible ramifications of releasing test results?

    1. We are following the same ROI and HIPAA guidelines for COVID-19. As long as there is a valid authorization to release information from the patient or for continuity of care. We are offering patients the option to obtain their test results or any records via MyChart so that they can access online. We are accepting fax and email authorizations from patients to limit personal contact with the public. We are working on having our faxed requests route to a shared drive or department email address so we can process requests remotely. We have only had 2-3 walk in requests and we have a clear glass window that locks at the front desk and this allows us to still see and communicate with patients. We also have a phone in the lobby of our building so patients can contact us if needed.

  7. What are the guidelines for releasing COVID-19 test results? Is this considered continuation of care or patient right of access? What are the possible ramifications of releasing this information? Should fill authorization be required from patients or facilities?

  8. Any recommendations for performing home based ROI?

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