Can a billing company keep patient data after we stop utilizing their services?

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Can a billing company keep patient data after we stop utilizing their services?

I am the new receptionist at a one provider chiropractic clinic in Madison,
Wisconsin. The doctor was unhappy with the service he was getting from his
billing company. They had a history of tension. He abruptly decided to end the
relationship and wants me to do the billing in-house. We were using Medisoft
patient accounting on the billing company’s server. They cut off our access
immediately and I had no time to do a backup to our PC. Now they are refusing
to give us back the patient billing records/data. The doctor has an unpaid
balance with the company and they said they’d give it back if he paid. The
doctor refuses to pay because he feels they did not provide the services they
were billing him for. My question is, can they legally keep that information? I
have patients asking me for records and receipts for insurance purposes and I
have nothing to give them. I certainly did not think this was going to be part
of my job based on the ‘receptionist’ position I applied for, but I take pride
in my customer service and what to do my best. Please advise.

Asked on September 27, 2018 under Business Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they can keep this information if not paid: they are a for-profit business, and like any other business, do not need to do *anything*--including helping a former customer by turning over information--if not paid for the work they do. Your doctor abruptly ended the relationship while owing money; he should not be surprised that they cut off his access to their system or the information on it. He could try suing them for the information and/or some amount of monetary compensation, but would have to prove in court not just that he was unhappy with them, but that their service did not reach commercially acceptabe levels of quality; if it is commercially or generally acceptable, his leval of personal dissatisfaction with them is not relevant. That will take months; will cost him thousands, if he hires a lawyer; will distract him from work. He is better off paying, getting the data, and moving on.


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