There’s a wide variety of reasons why you might need to access your medical records. It could be that you’re involved in a personal injury case and you may need the records to back up your claims. You might be facing a medical malpractice case, wherein your medical records are at the heart of your claims. Sometimes, you might just need to access them because you’re changing physicians.
You would think that it’s easy to get your records; after all, they’re yours, aren’t they? The truth is, it can sometimes be unfairly difficult to get your records, even though you have the right to them. Learn some important information on the procedures for retrieving your medical records, your rights and what to do if you’re denied access in time of need.
Your Rights Regarding Medical Records
The first thing to understand is that yes, you do indeed have the right to your medical records. A federal law called HIPAA, or the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, guarantees you the right to access your medical records, with a few notable exceptions. Under HIPPA, you can always access your own records, the records of someone for whom you are a designated representative (i.e. they’ve granted written permission), your children or someone for whom you are a legal guardian, and the records of deceased persons under some situations.
There are, however, certain exceptions to these rights. If a minor who is at least 16 years old and eligible for emancipation has consented to medical treatment, the parent may not be granted access to their records. In addition, minors in Texas may consent to pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and infectious disease treatment, which may protect their records.
Only designated personal representatives of estates can request medical records of decedents unless such records relate directly to the health of the relative requesting such information.
Availability of Records
Under HIPAA, patients have access to all of their own medical records. They can be given copies and may view originals at the medical provider’s office. Under the same law, however, healthcare providers can withhold psychotherapy notes, the information being gathered for lawsuits and any information the provider believes could present a danger to your life, safety or the life and safety of someone else.
The first step to request records is to contact your healthcare provider to find out where to send the request. Make the request in writing and include all of your contact information as well as your birth date and if you have it, the medical record number. You may need to provide a social security number as well. You’ll fill out a release form and specify whether you want copies, to see the originals or both, and specify the records you need.
What to Do if You’re Denied
If you’re denied access to your medical records, you are always entitled to representation to ensure that your rights are not being violated. Challenging a denial can require specific knowledge of HIPAA, and an attorney putting together your personal injury case can take the right steps to get the records to which you’re entitled.