Ownership of Medical Data

by Kathy
(South Carolina)

I have been doing medical billing for a client for about 4 years now and she has recently decided to incorporate with a family practice who is requiring her to shift her billing to their office. They happen to use the same software I own and she is requesting I give them my electronic data. Needless to say we don’t have a formal contract, which is bad I know, and I am torn about doing this – for free anyway.

When I first took on her business I spent many hours cleaning up the previous persons mess without additional compensation. Also, a lot of the data I would have to give to them I spent many hours setting up and this data has nothing to do with patient records. I don’t think they should be able to use what I created. I have looked at the following web-site:


and it sounds as if you can charge for expenses regarding the transfer of electronic data. I would be glad to give them paper copies of patient data, but she already has all those in her files and I would print the A/R reports at no cost. Please let me know what you think. Thank you.

Great question.

Don’t beat yourself up about not having a formal contract.

I’ve been frustrated many times because a provider doesn’t understand the time and effort we put into cleaning up these messes in the patient database and maintaining it so they can get paid.

I think the provider is certainly entitled to the patient data – but I’m not aware of anything that defines what form that data has to be in – paper or electronic – or the enhanced info you added to it.

Like you I wouldn’t hesitate to provide paper copies, but would be hesitant to hand over the electronic files unless you feel you have recouped the investment in time and effort over the course of 4 years – and obviously you don’t feel that way.

Just like a provider expects to be paid for their time and effort, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect payment for your efforts. I would suggest estimating the time you put into cleaning up the mess as well as the enhanced work you did – and multiplying by what you think is a fair hourly rate for your time. I would then suggest using this to propose a fee for providing the electronic data along with the justification (just like you gave above) as to why you would like to be paid.

I think you certainly have a strong case. The challenge I’ve run into is that doctors don’t always appreciate what we do behind the scenes as part of the billing process and don’t necessarily value the effort – or they think the billing service is trying to take advantage of them. Hopefully you still have a good relationship with this doctor and can reach an amicable solution – or at least negotiate.

Since there’s no written agreement to define the hand over of electronic information, it may require some back-and-forth negotiation to get it resolved.

I hope this works out well for you.