Requesting Medical Records 

Know Your Rights with HIPAA:

HIPAA entitles every person the right to access his or her medical records, receive copies of them, request amendments to them, and know who has seen them. After a provider receives a patient’s written request, the records must be granted within 30 days. In the event that more time is required, a provider must provide an explanation within the 30-day time period and the patient must be granted access to his medical record within 60 days.

“Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, a covered entity must act on an individual’s request for access no later than 30 calendar days after receipt of the request.” – US Department of Health & Human Services

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which administers HIPAA, has information on Your Health Information Privacy Rights:

“The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), gives you rights over your health information, including the right to get copy of your information, make sure it is correct, and know who has seen it.”

It is a Federal Civil Rights and HIPAA Violation to refuse to give them to a patient.

Please note, federal law (HIPAA) allows you access to your records, but state laws affect medical record retention, legal timeframe to access records after a request (some state laws are shorter than the 30 days required by HIPAA), and copying fees.

Obtaining Medical Records:

1. Written Request & ID – Contact a health provider and request to complete an “authorization for disclosure of protected information form.” Send a written request for a release of all your medical records in their entirety along with a valid government issued photo ID. Provide as much information as possible on the authorization form, such as: “Please release all my medical records in their entirety, including all blood work, lab reports, notes, prescriptions, every written and electronic record by Dr.___, anesthesiologist, nurses, etc. who have been part of my health care.”

2. Legal Timeframe – After the receipt of the written request, the health care provider has a legal timeframe that varies with state on how long they have to provide you/allow you to access the records. Please note, HIPAA does allow a single 30-day extension, but the facility must explain the cause of the delay.

3. HIPAA – If the health care provider gives reasons why they can not, provide them with a copy of Your Health Information Privacy Rights. Many medical offices don’t understand the law. You may mention that you know about HIPAA and that you are entitled to your record, and ask who should you talk to (nicely).

4. Action – If for some reason they go past the allotted time that the healthcare provider’s state has to provide you access to your medical records, then you have the option to file state and federal complaints – with the state’s medical board and with the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Resources: How to file a complaint with OCR, the Complaint Portal for filing online, or file by email [email protected].

If a health care provider, such as a plastic surgeon or lab, makes it difficult to obtain your medical file, know you are legally entitled to your medical records. It is a Federal Civil Rights and HIPAA Violation to refuse to give them to a patient.

What happens to records if a medical practice closes? See here.

For more information and for comments on the experiences of others, please refer to Dave de Bronkart’s (epatientdave) page as an excellent resource on the matter. At times he also reaches out to twitter to help individuals gather information. Additionally, please refer to the HIPAA fact sheet.

You can also comment below on this page for questions or to share your experience with obtaining medical records.