How Can I Get My Medical Records?

For those of you interested in seeing your personal health records, we’ve been asked to share some basic guidelines. This info is from and outlines how you can access your complete medical records –

Access Your Personal Medical Records

Access to personal health records is guaranteed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Under this law, patients may submit a request, and the personal health records must be provided within 30 days. Though originally designed to provide access to paper medical files, the law applies to accessing electronic medical records (EMR) as well.

Obtaining your personal health record is as simple as making a request from your doctor. The exact procedure for accessing a personal health record differs from state to state, with some requiring a written request and others accepting a verbal request for them.

Ways to Access Your Personal Medical Records in Writing

Some advocacy groups recommend that you make the request in writing. So you and the health care provider have a record of the transaction. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a pro-privacy group, has put together a sample request for medical records form letter to help you obtain your personal health record.

Release of Personal Health Records: Rights and Fees

Once received, you have the right to review your personal health record (PHR) and seek changes to information you think is wrong. However, if you want a hard copy of your personal files, doctors and hospitals may charge a “reasonable fee” to cover time and cost of materials.

You also have the option to send your personal health record directly to healthcare professionals. If you choose to go this route, most doctors say it is good to let them know ahead of time. So they can know when to expect them.

Paperless Records vs. Hard Copies

Proponents of transitioning to paperless medical records say that EMR / EHR systems will decrease the costs of maintaining patient medical records. That will make it faster and cheaper for doctors to gain access to medical records. And thus for patients to submit a request.

For doctors transitioning to paperless medical records, the most successful “were characterized by even more benefits and time savings per patient,” concluded a 2003 report compiled by the University of California on small medical practices that adopted EMR or EHR.

Sensitive Information

Most patients have no problem gaining access. But, there are times when they may reject accessing your personal medical records request. These situations include any time when your physician or provider believes releasing the information to you could endanger you or someone else. Or when special exemptions are provided under law. Such as for mental health records, which are exempted from disclosure requirements.

Still have questions about how to get your files? Let us know!