Obtaining Your Medical Records
There are many reasons why you may need to obtain copies of your medical records:
- If you have been involved in a personal injury lawsuit, or have a workers’ compensation claim, your medical records may be able to provide important information for you to prove your case.
- If you have filed a legal claim following a crash, it may be necessary for you to prove that the collision, and not a previous medical condition, was the cause of your injuries.
- If the extent of your injuries is in dispute, it is also important to have access to your medical records.
- You may need to provide your new doctor, or a specialist, with your medical records.
- If counsel later requests the records with your permission, they may get a different set of records which a jury may find questionable as to why different records were produced at different times.
You Have a Right to Obtain Your Medical Records
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) was enacted by the United States Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.
HIPAA gives patients the right to obtain a copy of their medical records from any medical provider, with a few exceptions.
Who May Obtain Medical Records?
According to HIPAA, you may request:
- Your own medical records.
- The medical records of another party if you are their legal guardian
- The medical records of another party if you are their designated representative.
- The medical records of another party if they give you written permission to act as their representative. For example, if your elderly parents designate you as their representative, and you request their records, the medical providers must comply with your request.
- Your children’s medical records, with some exceptions. Generally, parents and legal guardians have access to their children’s medical records, but a parent may not obtain a child’s records if:
- The child has consented to medical care and parental consent is not required under state law, or
- The child receives medical care at the court’s direction, or
- The parent agrees that the minor child and the medical provider have a confidential relationship.
- Medical records of deceased persons:
- If you are the personal representative of an estate or are appointed by the court to settle a deceased person’s affairs, HIPAA will allow you access to the deceased’s medical records.
- If you are related to a deceased person and there is information in that person’s medical file pertains to your own health, HIPAA will allow you access that information.
- In Arizona, a spouse, child or parent may be able to obtain records of a deceased patient if the provider wishes to produce those records without a probate being set up.
Note: Regarding Spousal Rights:
Married couples do not have an automatic right to one another’s medical records. In order to obtain your spouse’s medical records, your spouse must provide you with his or her consent in the form of a signed advance directive or power of attorney.
What Records Can You Obtain?
HIPAA provides patients with the right to obtain copies of all of their medical records. Patients also have the right to view, usually at the medical provider’s offices, their original medical records.
Requesting Medical Records
- If you are requesting medical records in person, you will be required to show a valid government-issued photo ID at either the time of your request or when picking up your records.
- If you are picking up another person’s records, the provider will require additional legal documents and information to demonstrate your right to access records on another’s behalf. Make sure to ask about these requirements in advance.
Can Certain Records Be Withheld?
HIPAA does allow health care providers to withhold certain types of medical records, including:
- Notes from a psychotherapy session.
- Information the provider is gathering and compiling for a lawsuit.
- Medical information that the provider believes could reasonably endanger your life, your safety, or the safety of another party.
- Generally, if the provider denies your request for medical records, they must provide you with a denial letter. In certain cases, you may be able to appeal the provider’s denial.
When Will You Receive the Requested Medical Records?
- HIPAA requires that providers complete a record request within 30 days.
- It also allows a single 30-day extension, but the facility must explain to the requestor the cause of the delay.