There are many reasons why you might need to obtain a copy of your medical records. Perhaps you’re moving or changing doctors. Maybe you have an extensive history of health conditions or mental health conditions including all of the different types of depression and you want to review your records. Or, it may be an unfortunate circumstance like identity theft or insurance fraud. Regardless of the reason, you have rights to access this important information. Here’s how to get medical records when you need them.
Your Right to Medical Records
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law that was enacted in 1996. The HIPAA privacy rule protects patient’s rights to medical records, who the information is shared with and how it is shared. Under this act, you have the right to review your information and share it with others. This includes things like lab/test results, recent appointments, immunizations, allergies, past and present medications, etc.
You have the right to your medical records even if you have not paid for services rendered. A provider cannot withhold them because you owe money. They can, however, charge a fee to send copies of your records.
Providers may send copies of your information to other providers, but they are not required to do so. Regardless of their particular process or policies, they should be able to tell you how to get medical records.
Getting Medical Records
The easiest and quickest way to access medical records is through an online patient portal. Another plus: it’s free! Most healthcare systems have this online portal that you can access through a website anytime by logging in with a username and password. There may be multiple patient portals for each doctor or healthcare provider. Some patient portals allow you to print documents and/or save them as a pdf. Others have the option to submit a request for copies.
If you are having trouble with the online portal or there isn’t one available, you can simply submit a request to your provider. Information on how to get medical records can usually be found on their website or by giving them a phone call.
Typically, you will be required to fill out an authorization or record release form. While the format may vary, you should expect to be asked for the following: patient information, specific records to be released, dates of medical services, reason(s) for the request, supporting legal documents (if you are not the patient), signature(s), and specific instructions/dates for the request.
Don’t Be Afraid When You Need to Get Your Medical Records
Don’t be afraid to follow up after you have made your request. Once you understand how to get medical records and your rights, you will be well equipped to have the access you need to keep tabs on your health.