Smart ways to use your medical records

Having a medical record on hand can help you better understand your health, share information with providers, and much more.

doctor getting information on smartphone and laptop computer

Updated on April 9, 2024.

The same law that protects the privacy of your medical records, known as HIPAA, also gives you access to your medical records. That means you can request a copy of your medical record from a healthcare provider (HCP) or hospital—and you should. Here are smart ways to use your records.

Empower yourself to get better care

Whether you have a chronic condition or a sudden health issue crops up, having your medical record in your possession can be a powerful tool. You can:

  • Better understand the tests or care you received
  • Add that information to your personal health record
  • Share your record with other HCPs
  • Avoid redundant tests and procedures
  • Determine if your happy with an HCP's care
  • Keep track of what preventive tests and procedures may be upcoming
  • Use the information to research your health conditions online

However, be sure to err on the side of caution when you use your records for your own health research. Some experts believe that too much information can lead to self-diagnosis errors, setting up unnecessary anxiety and worry. If you have questions about your records or information you found online, your most reliable source for answers is your HCP.

Correct errors

Mistakes do show up in medical records sometimes. For example, the HCP may misunderstand part of your health history or accidentally enter one of your medication prescriptions incorrectly. (The most common health record errors involve medication names or doses.) Or, your contact info or other personal details may not be up to date. Those errors can affect the quality of care you get later, so it’s wise to check your records carefully.

By law, you have the right to request corrections to your medical records (though you can’t have information deleted from them). Your HCP may ask that you submit your request in writing. Then, ask your HCP how you should submit your corrections. For small errors, it may be enough to email or fax a copy of your record with your handwritten changes. More complex issues may require a letter explaining the corrections needed.

Control your healthcare costs

Another type of health record error is incorrect billing charges. Your provider may simply enter the wrong billing code, or more worryingly, charge you for services not done. That can cost you money if you’re paying out of pocket. And across the whole healthcare system, such mistakes can lead to higher insurance costs. Be sure to match the charges that appear on your medical bills with the services listed on your health records. If anything looks wrong, don’t be afraid to question it.

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