Learn How to Get a Copy of Your Medical Records

Learn How to Get a Copy of Your Medical Records

There are a number of reasons you may want to access your medical records. Maybe you need proof of a medical condition. Perhaps you need your records to schedule an appointment with a new doctor. Or, maybe you just want to add them to your personal health record. Whatever your reason, getting a copy of your medical records is easier than you think.

You have rights to your health information
Under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you have the right to receive a copy of your medical records -- including billing records as well as X-rays or other test records -- from any health provider or plan. Your provider may require that you submit your request in writing; call to find out what information you need to include in your request. Many hospitals have online forms for submitting your request.

At the very least, you should get a paper copy, but electronic methods of delivery are becoming increasingly available. If it will take longer than 30 days to provide the records, your doctor must explain why. The provider may charge you a small fee for copying and sending the records. You can also request access to view your original record at the office or hospital.

You can get another person's medical records if you have written consent. For example, if you are acting on someone’s behalf as a Healthcare Power of Attorney, or if you’ve been designated as a person’s legal ward or guardian, then you can access his or her records.

You can access your children's medical records -- with exceptions. If you're a parent or legal guardian, federal law allows you to see your child's medical records. However, there are certain restrictions. Some states don’t allow parents to access records for certain sensitive services, such as treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or drug addiction. In other places, healthcare providers may use their discretion to decide when to give parents access.

You can also receive medical records of a deceased person under certain conditions. Whether appointed by will or by the court, if you're acting as the personal representative of the deceased's estate, you have access to their medical records under HIPAA. And if you're related to the deceased and their medical history has an impact on your own health, HIPPA gives you access to that information, as well.

There are some records you can't see
For the most part, you have a right to view most original medical records. But health providers can withhold certain types of health information under HIPPA regulations and privacy laws, including:

  • The provider’s personal notes and observations
  • Psychotherapy notes
  • Health information compiled by the provider for a lawsuit
  • Information a provider thinks may endanger your life, safety or the safety of others

In the event your request is denied, the provider often sends you a denial letter in the mail. And you do have the option to appeal your denial, too.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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