Your Body, Their Notes: Your Rights to Your Own Medical Records
Obtaining Copies of Your Medical Records: Your Rights
In the rapidly changing health care environment of the United States, patients are encountering more and more challenges in getting their hands on their medical records. Not long ago, The New York Times published an article to bring light to this situation.
The article described several situations in which patients were denied copies of their medical records due to HIPAA or what the hospital and doctor’s office described as the patient’s own protection and privacy concerns. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that these health care facilities were looking out for that patient’s privacy at all—they were looking out for their own pocketbooks.
There are laws in place to protect a patient’s privacy, as well as laws in place to ensure a patient has access to his own medical record. Despite these laws, medical facilities place hurdles in obtaining medical records to keep patients from leaving the practice or the medical facility to go to different health care providers.
You Have Rights
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reminds us that, under the medical privacy law (HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), patients have rights to inspect, review, and receive a copy of their medical and billing records. These rights are granted only to the patient or the patient’s representative. A health care provider may charge you a reasonable cost for copying and mailing the record. You may not be denied your medical records because you owe a bill to the health care provider. You do not have access to psychotherapy notes.
The health care provider is required to furnish the medical records to you within 30 days in most cases; however, if there are extenuating circumstances, the provider may take up to 60 days. HIPPA is a federal law that provides a baseline guarantee of your medical privacy rights; some individual states also have their own laws regarding patient access to his medical records. In all situations, the provider is required to abide by the law that provides the patient with the most rights.
Electronic Health Records
The federal government has recently offered incentives for health care providers to adopt electronic medical records. Among other things, this program is designed to promote patients’ access to their health records and to encourage the use of online patient portals. Many providers have begun to implement these portals to help patients gain access to their records and to ease the transition of care to other providers.
Even so, some health care providers are lagging behind. They are unwilling to give up control of patient information, because empowering patients may loosen their grip on profitable patients.
Have you faced medical hardship because a doctor, hospital, or other medical provider has been too restrictive in releasing your health records? You may have a legal claim that will allow you to recoup your losses. Fill in the speedy contact box on this page to get help now.