August 27, 2012

Your Rights to Obtain Medical Records

This is a topic I started in November2010, and you may review it here. Georgetown University maintains a list of states and the rights for patients in each state that may be in addition to your rights under HIPAA. Please take the time to review the rules for your state, as these are important and can sometimes answer many questions. There is a lot of information available on obtaining your own medical records or those of your minor child. In some states, once the minor attains the age of sixteen, parents may have limited rights.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) of 1996 created a lot of privacy, but also mandated that covered entities must provide you with copies of most of your medical records. Of course, they may charge you a reasonable fee for them. Some doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies do their best to wear you out as a way of discouraging you and prevent themselves from providing the records.

If you are denied access to your medical records, then you must take steps to obtain them. I will provide the steps necessary, as I understand them. You need to check them and follow them carefully and then if you are denied, you need to file a complaint.

The steps you need to follow are not that difficult, but for many, it can be a nightmare if you meet with rebuffs at every step.

1 - First, make sure you have a right to the records. This is not always as easy as this sounds. Even your own records may become unavailable to you and beyond your legal reach.
2 - Second, be sure that you follow the right steps and procedures for obtaining your medical records. You will need to sign in person the request and follow directions. So make sure you listen to what you are told as this can take several days or even a week or more depending on where the records are kept and personnel available. Most entities will not accept a phone call, and will ignore these requests.
3 - Third, be sure you have made the request from the correct facility. Do not go to the clinic for hospital records. For outpatient records, you may have to ask the doctor who keeps them.
4 - And fourth, have you waited long enough? This is where the state you live in can determine the length. Federal law mandates the longest wait they can delay giving you your records at 60 days.

Many walk-in clinics and places that do not file for insurance reimbursements are not considers covered entities under HIPAA and as such not required to give copies of medical records. Be sure to ask even then as a few will as a courtesy. Be prepared to pay a reasonable fee.

Once you are sure you have met all requirements and are still being denied access to your medical records, you will have 180 days to file a complaint once you are denied. This complaint must be filed with the US Department of Health and Human Services. This information will be in another blog later.

For more explanation, you may want to read this reference.

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