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A Better Partnership
February 21, 2014

COA holds that MRAA and MCPA do not protect patient’s access to independent-medical-evaluation records

In Paul v. Glendale Neurological Associates, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that neither the Medical Records Access Act (“MRAA”) nor the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (“MCPA”) protect patient access to medical records for procedures performed in the context of receiving an an independent medical evaluation (“IME”).
Jennifer Paul allegedly injured her shoulder at work and filed a worker’s compensation claim.  Her employer’s insurance company hired a service to obtain an IME of Paul.  In the process of receiving an IME, Paul was examined by a doctor who ordered an MRI and an arthrogram.  Glendale Neurological Associates was hired to perform those services.  After receiving the MRI and arthrogram, Paul’s attorney requested copies of any notes, test results, reports, and so forth, from Glendale.  Glendale denied the request.  Paul filed a lawsuit alleging that by denying her request, Glendale was in violation of the Medical Records Access Act (“MRAA”) and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (“MCPA”).  The trial court granted summary disposition for Glendale after concluding that neither the MRAA nor the MCPA applied to Paul’s situation.  Paul appealed.  The court of appeals affirmed.
First, the court held that Glendale’s records of Paul’s examination for the benefit of a third party “were not produced in the process of caring for the patient’s health,” as is required under the MRAA.  The IME context, the court explained, “differs significantly from the typical interaction between a physician and patient,” and is “not to provide a diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions.”  The “limited nature of a physician’s duty in an IME context” does not support the conclusion that services performed in that context were in the process of caring for the patient’s health.  Accordingly, “the MRAA does not apply in the context of an IME.”  Second, the court conclude that the MCPA did not apply to Paul because the procedures by Glendale were not undertaken “primarily for personal, family, or household purposes,” as is required by the MCPA.  Rather, the MRI and arthrogram were performed “for the business purpose of evaluating plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim.”
Judge Servitto concurred in part and dissented in part.  She agreed that the MCPA did not apply to Paul, but disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that the MRAA did not apply.  Judge Servitto argued that the majority unnecessarily limited the definition of “medical records” in the MRAA, and that because the MRI and arthrogram were performed in order to diagnose Paul, they fit within the MRAA’s definition of “health care” and “medical records.”  Judge Servitto also suggested that Paul’s access to her records would be consistent with the Michigan Public Health Code.

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