Getting Your Medical Records: Your Rights

Hospital files

By: Jeff Stewart, Esq.

When the time comes to get access to medical records, it’s imperative that you know your rights. These rights include the ability to access your records whenever you need them, regardless of whether you’re switching doctors, pursuing a personal injury case, or just need some information about a health problem you’re having.

You can access your files under federal law, and sometimes you might even have the right to access the files and records of other people, in specific circumstances. Learn about what getting medical records requires, your rights to access under HIPAA, and why you might need help from a qualified injury attorney.

Getting Medical Records under HIPAA

HIPAA, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, is a set of laws that were put into play to protect the confidentiality and rights of patients in healthcare. Among other things, this act specifies the people who can access medical records at any given time. It is clear that with a few very specific exceptions, you always have the ability to view your original medical records at your health care provider’s location, and you have the right to request to be given copies of those records.

The only circumstances where you’re not able to access your records are if the healthcare provider is gathering information regarding a lawsuit, if access to the files would put your life or safety in danger or endanger the life and safety of another, or if the records are psychotherapy notes. Psychotherapy notes are always completely confidential.

Accessing Other Medical Records

HIPAA also provides for you getting medical records of certain other people. These include your minor children unless they have consented to a procedure that didn’t require your consent, they have been mandated by courts to receive services, or you have agreed to doctor-patient confidentiality between them and their provider.

You may also access the healthcare records of someone over whom you hold legal guardianship or someone who has given you written permission to access their records (you are the personal representative of someone). Finally, you can access the records of a deceased person if you’re the personal representative of the estate, or if you’re a relative with a related health concern.

Requesting Your Records

To get your records, usually, you just need to file a written request with the provider who has them. This request should include your full contact information as well as the records you want to access. Some forms may ask for a reason you want to view the records, as well as your social security number.

From this point, the provider has up to 30 days to turn over copies of the files. Note that you can’t get your originals, though you can view them at the provider’s office. If they fail to turn over the files or there’s a delay, they’re required to inform you in writing of the reason.

Fighting for Your Rights

If you have difficulty getting your medical records, you can challenge the denial. It takes help, though, from a qualified injury attorney. If you’re in North Carolina and facing this problem, call Mike Lewis Attorneys for help today.

About The Author

Jeff Stewart is a nursing home abuse lawyer in Charleston, West Virginia, and managing partner of Stewart Bell, PLLC. Jeff is a graduate of Marshall University and the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. Jeff is also a member of the West Virginia State Bar, the U.S. District Court Northern District of West Virginia, and the U.S. District Court Southern District of West Virginia.

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