Retrieving Medical Records – The Ins & Outs

Retrieving medical records is often straightforward but there are exceptions to the rule, and they can be frustrating. HIPPA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that governs patient access to medical records. This law gives you the right to review your health records, but it is complex and can occasionally cause confusion and even denial of a patient’s request for records.

Who Has Access to Your Medical Records?

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You may, of course, request access to your own medical records. You are legally entitled to examine and make copies of test results, doctors’ notes, lab reports, and billing information, as long as you make your request legally and according to procedure.

You may also access the records of your minor child, although the law does protect certain information regarding sexual and reproductive health of children over the age of twelve. You may not access your spouse’s medical records without written authorization. Retrieving medical records on behalf of an incapacitated person can be tricky and should be done with the assistance of an attorney should you run into any roadblocks.

Which Providers Have Your Records?

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Tracking down your medical records can take some legwork, but it will help if you know where to start and whom to ask. Doctors, hospitals, labs, and other medical practitioners must provide all test results (even those that you haven’t paid for), results and notes ordered and created by their practice, along with information that has been shared with them by another doctor whose care you are under or were under in the past. It is possible to request results from the lab that processed your results, but it is easier to work through the doctor who requested the test.

If a hospital has ordered and processed any tests for you, you should request those records directly from them.

How Much Will It Cost to Access My Medical Records?

cost of retrieving medical records

As of January 1, 2018, in Pennsylvania you may be charged a maximum of $1.51 per page for pages 1-20, a maximum of $1.12 per page for pages 21-60, and a maximum of 38 cents for pages 61+ of any medical record. There is a maximum charge of $22.48 to compensate a hospital or other facility for searching for and retrieving your records.

Each state sets its own maximum fees, but the governing principle is that a facility may charge enough to offset their costs in retrieving medical records and making copies, but they may not profit from these activities.

How to Request Your Medical Records

retrieving medical records

Most healthcare providers will have a specific form that patients can use to request their records. In the unlikely event that they do not use such a form, you may simply compose a letter or email that includes your name, maiden name if applicable, Social Security number, date of birth, email address, snail mail address, and phone number. State the amount of time you’ve been under the doctor’s care and the records that you are seeking.

Make sure to include your signature and inform the practice how they can provide you with the requested records: pick up in person, fax, email, post, etc.

What Information May Be Denied?

hipaa laws

Remember that you are entitled to view your own medical records. Your request may in certain circumstances be denied, but the hospital or other issuer must have a very good reason for doing so. If your request is denied, they must inform you in writing. Some reasons or types of records that you may be denied access to include:

  • Records produced by a psychotherapist or other mental health professional;
  • Information that has been gathered for use in a lawsuit;
  • Records that include another person’s health information that if released to you it may endanger them;
  • If you are incarcerated, you may be denied access to your prison health records if there is reason to believe that the results may endanger someone else at the facility;
  • Information that has been provided confidentially; and
  • Records that are part of an ongoing medical research study

A provider may deny any request should they believe that access to the information in a given record could cause you to seriously harm yourself or another person. This, of course, is a subjective assessment on the behalf of the facility.

When You’ve Been Denied Access or Find a Mistake in a Medical Record

denied access to medical records

There are several reasons that you may need the assistance of an attorney when dealing with retrieving medical records. If your record request has been denied — even for any of the above legitimate reasons — you do have the right to appeal the decision. A judge or panel will hear your appeal and then decide whether you do in fact have the right to access your information. Note that you have only one opportunity to appeal, so the assistance of an attorney here is vital.

Errors in a medical record can cause unforeseen issues and should be corrected immediately. Mistakes in recording your symptoms or condition can lead to improper testing or diagnosis. A wrong Social Security number or misreported insurance information could even lead to identity theft. If you discover any mistakes, contact the provider’s office immediately and request the relevant paperwork that will allow you to amend the documents.

Expert Lawyers in Media, PA for Retrieving Medical Records

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Remember that the law is on your side when it comes to accessing your medical records. Unless there are very specific extenuating circumstances involved, you have a right to review your own medical history. However, given the complexity of HIPAA laws, there is a good chance that a denied request has happened in error. If you’ve been denied access to your own records, have been charged in excess of the above pay schedule to obtain your records, or have other issues in retrieving your medical history that are causing problems with your current provider’s treatment, contact Donaghue & Labrum today.

The attorneys of Donaghue & Labrum have a wealth of experience in representing clients in medical litigation. We know the law, we know your rights, and we can help you to obtain the information that you need. We service clients in Delaware County, Chester County, Philadelphia, and beyond. Call us for a free consultation. We’ll evaluate your claim and explain how we can help you gain access to the information that is rightfully yours.