HOW TO REQUEST A COPY OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS
HOW TO REQUEST A COPY OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS
There are many reasons to request a copy of your medical records. You may have been in an auto accident and need to document your injuries and the treatment you received. You may be moving to a new state and want to bring your medical file to your new primary care physician. Or maybe you need a copy of your medical records to apply for life insurance. Whatever the reason, it is important that you know how to get your records as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thankfully, a recent federal law known as the HITECH Act provides all patients with the right to receive an electronic copy of their records through an easy, cheap, and quick process. To obtain an electronic copy of your medical records through the HITECH Act, you should:
- Call Your Healthcare Provider
One of the quickest ways to derail your attempt to collect a copy of your medical records is to send your request to the wrong place. Because of this, the first step should always be to call your healthcare provider and ask them where records requests should be directed. Sometimes you will be told to send the request to a Medical Records department. Sometimes you will be directed to a legal department. Other times, you will be directed to send the request to a receptionist. Each medical provider is different. Make sure to get a phone number, email address, and physical address of the person or department where your request should be sent.
Lastly, ask if the medical provider has a specific HIPAA authorization. If they do, ask them to send you with a copy.
- Draft a Simple, but Direct Letter
Once you know the correct person or department, draft a simple letter that contains the following:
- The name and address of the health care provider and the department or person to whom you were instructed to send the request
- Your name
- The medical records you want (you can request everything or specific records within a date range)
- The medical bills you want (you can request everything or specific records within a date range)
- Whom you want the records sent to and where they should be sent (e.g. to you at your house address or to your attorney at their firm’s address)
- How you want to receive the records (e.g. on a CD, USB drive, email).
NOTE: The HITECH Act only applies to medical records that are stored electronically.
- Sign your name
If the medical provider sent you a specific HIPAA authorization for you to fill out, complete the document and send it with your letter. Although the HITECH Act does not require a HIPAA authorization to obtain medical records, some medical providers will delay processing requests because they think a HIPAA authorization is necessary. To avoid delays or hassles, if the medical provider gave you a HIPAA authorization, complete it and send it with your letter.
- Follow Up After 30 Days
Once the healthcare provider receives your request for medical records, the HITECH Act gives the healthcare provider only 30 days send your records. While the healthcare provider can extend this deadline by up to 30 additional days, to do so, it must inform you in writing of the reasons for the delay and the date by which you will receive your records.
- Check Your Bill
One of the biggest benefits of the HITECH Act is the cost savings it provides to individuals. Traditional medical records requests can be extremely expensive, with hospitals charging patients by the page. The HITECH Act changes this. Now, instead of charging by the page, healthcare providers are limited to charging for the cost of labor, supplies (CD or USB drive), and postage. Because of these limitations, most bills for electronic medical records are between $6.50 and $30 – significantly less that you would pay if you were charged by the page. Accordingly, when you receive your bill for your medical records, look to see if there is a charge “per page.” If there is, you can call the company that provided your medical records and challenge the bill.
- If Necessary, File a Complaint
If you submit a proper request for your medical records and your healthcare provider refuses to give them to you or if your healthcare provider attempts to require you to pay for your medical records on a “per page” basis, you can file a complaint online with the Department of Health and Human Services using the following link. https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/cp/wizard_cp.jsf. Once a Complaint is filed, the Department of Health and Human Services will investigate and may impose civil monetary penalties against the healthcare provider.
The HITECH Act makes it simple, quick, and cost effective for individuals to request and receive a copy of their electronic medical records. For more information and guidance on your right to request and receive a copy of your medical records, visit https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/access/index.html.
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