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What should I do if my doctor does not give me access to my records?

It's unlikely that your doctor will refuse to turn over your records. Doctors' offices are regularly asked for this information; providing patients with copies of records is a routine task.

Occasionally a health care worker will state that your records can’t be released due to privacy laws—but this isn’t true.

There are a few instances in which you may be denied parts of your medical records. These may include if the doctor believes the information may harm you or another person, personal notes (for example, something other than a tentative or actual diagnosis) and information obtained from other physicians or health care providers. In those cases you would need to contact the providers themselves and request copies.

If you cannot gain access to your records, request a review. You can also file complaints with your state medical board, or to the state or federal government. You can file a complaint online at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Visit the HHS web site at hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/. You’ll find a link there to fill out a simple complaint form.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule gives you, with few exceptions, the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of your medical records and billing records that are held by health plans and health care providers covered by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. If you want a copy, you may need to pay for copies and mailing. If you request an electronic copy of protected health information, a covered entity is required to provide you with such electronic copy to the extent it is readily producible. In most cases, you should get your copies within 30 days.

A provider cannot deny you a copy of your records because you have not paid for the health services you have received. If you believe that your doctor or other health care provider violated your health information privacy right by not giving you access to your medical record, you may file a HIPAA Privacy Rule Complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights. The easiest way to file a complaint is to go through the HHS Office for Civil Rights. If you have questions about privacy, security, or HIPAA, visit the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) privacy website. You can also search OCR’s HIPAA FAQ database.

You have the right to receive copies of your health information from your doctor and other providers. If you do not receive your information in a timely manner, follow up with your provider's office. If you feel your request is still not being handled properly, you can register a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil 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.