Do I have the right to see my health records?

Not only do you have the right to see your medical records, you can get a copy of them from most doctors, hospitals and other providers. You can also get a copy from your health insurance plan.

If the records are electronic, you can get an electronic copy. Some providers not only let you view your records online, you can download and print them. If your health care provider doesn't keep electronic records, they may send you a paper copy.

You have the right to receive copies of your health information from your doctor and from other providers, such as physical therapists and social workers. If your healthcare provider keeps your records electronically, you may be able to receive an electronic copy.

Depending on your doctor's or hospital's policies, you may have to make requests for health information in writing, and you may be asked to pay a small fee to cover your doctor's costs for furnishing you with the information. Many healthcare providers—particularly those still using paper-based systems—may not have all of your records available immediately, so it might take them a while to fulfill your request.

Finally, in some limited circumstances, your doctor may refuse to comply with your request. In such cases, they must supply an explanation in writing.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule gives you the right to see, review, and receive a copy of your health and billing records that are held by most doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers such as pharmacies and nursing home, as well as from your health plan.

In a few special cases, you may not be able to get all of your information. For example, your doctor may decide that something in your file could physically endanger you or someone else and may not have to give this information to you.

In most cases, your copies must be given to you within 30 days. However, if your health information is not maintained or accessible on-site, your health care provider or health plan can take up to 60 days to respond to your request. If, for some reason, they cannot take action by these deadlines, your provider or plan may extend the deadline by another 30 days if they give you a reason for the delay in writing and tell you when to expect your copies.

The provider cannot charge a fee for searching for or retrieving your information, but you may have to pay for the cost of copying and mailing.

Your State may also have laws that give you rights to see and copy your medical records. If there is a difference between State and Federal law, your provider must follow the law that gives you the most rights.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.