You don’t know what to do – you received a subpoena asking for what you think are confidential records and now you are spending time and stress to decide what to do. On top of that, you do not want to violate the patient’s rights! What do you do?
Even if you are not a party to a lawsuit, an attorney can request medical records from you through a subpoena. This includes a healthcare professional that may have provided services to the party or someone related to the party.
Fortunately, there are many legal protections for healthcare professionals responding to subpoenas, and you are in good hands.
First, you want to determine whether the documents requested are protected by other laws/rules, such as patient-doctor privilege or confidentiality and assert those if applicable.
Second, you want to determine the scope of the subpoena and whether that scope is reasonable, given the nature of the legal action. Are the documents relevant and specific or is the party just requesting “any and all” documents?
Third, and most important in my opinion, you need to get paid for your work! Your time spent writing reports/summaries that are not already part of the medical records should be paid for and any time spent in court absolutely needs to be paid for at a reasonable rate, generally $200+ per hour, including transport time and time spent sitting around at the courthouse waiting.
No matter what, you have options. You can move to “Quash the Subpoena” which means that you will not comply. You can move to submit certain documents in lieu of the subpoena, such as a limited production or report/summary instead of “any and all” documents. You can also move for a “Protective Order” to make sure the documents are only seen in a certain way, by certain people, and otherwise kept very private. You may also be able to reach another solution with the requesting party and/or Judge assigned to the case.
Regardless of your action, I almost always recommend contacting the party sending the subpoena to resolve the matter without formal legal actions.
If you simply ignore the subpoena all together, you do run the risk of being in “contempt” of court and could be fined or even imprisoned.
Again, State, Federal, court rules and local healthcare professional laws are in the healthcare professional’s favor when they are properly asserted.