Why would a patient want to obtain medical records?
Medical records, also known as health records, include all of a patient’s documented medical care and history as collected by a medical facility. (1). These include doctor’s notes, test results, billing information, lab reports, and more. As a patient, you may want to view and obtain your medical records to see details about your care and have a more in-depth understanding of your health. Some health care systems use online patient portals to consolidate and provide patients access to their medical records. If this is not the case, patients can still ask for their records.
How do you get copies of your medical records?
As a patient, your right to view and access your health information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) (2). Patients have the right to obtain all medical and billing records from their health care providers and health plans with very few exceptions. These exceptions include:
- The notes that a mental health professional takes during a conversation with the patient, called psychotherapy notes, are not a part of the medical record and therefore the patient does not have the right to view them.
- Information compiled for the purpose of criminal, civil, or administrative action (3).
You have the right to obtain these records within 30 calendar days in most cases. In order to obtain these records, you will need to contact the hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic where you were treated. You will need to request these records, and the records will be sent either via mail or through an electronic portal. The doctor must try to provide you with records in your requested format, and if they are unable to do so, they must work with you to find a suitable solution.
Can friends or family have access to medical records?
HIPAA also enables patients to grant caregivers, family members, or mobile apps access to their health information as well. To do this, you (the patient) must fill out a form that consents to that specific person or application receiving access to your medical records. It is recommended that a patient provide consent to at least one other family member or friend so that, in the case of an emergency, that person can receive and view the medical records.
Does requesting medical records cost anything?
There should not be a fee associated with obtaining or viewing medical records, but there may be a fee if copies are made or the information is mailed out. In this instance, information regarding the fee must be provided by the doctor’s office staff up front at the time of the request. Fees must be fair and limited to the price of postage or supplies necessary to deliver the records in the format requested.
How do you release or transfer medical records?
A patient may wish to transfer their medical records from one doctor’s office or hospital to another if they are relocating, changing health insurance policies, seeing a specialist, or changing doctors for any reason. Because a patient’s medical records are confidential, they can only be released or transferred with the patient’s consent. This requires the completion and signing of authorization for release forms, which can normally be obtained at a doctor’s office or hospital. Usually, there is no charge for the medical records to be sent to another physician for continuity of care. There may be a fee to photocopy your records or do more than one transfer of records, but ask your doctor’s office for more details.
- Torrey, T., & Fogoros, R. N. (n.d.). How to Get Copies of Your Medical Records. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-get-copies-of-your-medical-records-2615505
- HHS Office of the Secretary, Office for Civil Rights, & OCR. (2017, February 01). Your Rights Under HIPAA. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html
- HHS Office of the Secretary,Health Information Privacy Division. (2016, February 25). Individuals’ Right under HIPAA to Access their Health Information. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/access/index.html