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

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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