It seems that once per week people ask me a question about medical records:
- How do I request my medical records?
- Does the hospital have to give me copies of my medical records?
- Can I request my mother’s medical records?
Federal and New York law both give you the right to request and receive your medical records. In 1996, Congress passed The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 (P.L.104-191) [HIPAA] which both protects health care data and sets the standards under which it can be released.
What Medical Records May You See?
You can see all parts of your medical records, including notes, reports, test results and the files shared by another provider. For example, if your primary care doctor ordered blood tests for you, the results of those tests should be in your primary care doctor’s records and should be shared with you if you request your records. Likewise, if you request your records from the hospital, the ambulance record will typically be found in those records.
A provider may withhold records if he or she believes that your seeing those records could pose a danger to your health. If the doctor makes such a decision, the doctor must explain that decision in writing.
Who May See Your Medical Records?
The Federal government used HIPPA to prevent the inappropriate and unfettered release of personal medical data. The patient or the parent or guardian of a patient may request a patient’s medical records. If the patient has died, the executor of the estate may request the records. In the case of an executor requesting records, the provider may ask to see proof such as the letters of administration issued by the Surrogates Court in New York.
You may authorize others to receive your records by signing a HIPPA-compliant authorization form. For example, my clients sign an authorization so that I can see their medical records relating to their case. This form must contain the following:
- Your name and identification information. It should include your birth date, but no longer must you provide your Social Security number.
- The name and address of the provider your are asking to release the information
- The name and person to whom you are authorizing the release of information
- The period of time for which you authorize the release of records (For example, release the records up to March 1, 2012)
- The period of time covered by the records in the release (For examples, all records covering the period January 1, 2010 to January 1, 2011)
- What records you want released
- Your signature
Most providers can offer you a form to complete. Here is a good HIPPA-authorization form from the New York State court system.
However, HIPPA does specify that others can see all or part of your medical records a necessary to provide or pay for your health care or to comply with certain laws. The Department of Health and Human Services website explains:
To make sure that your health information is protected in a way that does not interfere with your health care, your information can be used and shared:
- For your treatment and care coordination
- To pay doctors and hospitals for your health care and to help run their businesses
- With your family, relatives, friends, or others you identify who are involved with your health care or your health care bills, unless you object
- To make sure doctors give good care and nursing homes are clean and safe
- To protect the public’s health, such as by reporting when the flu is in your area
- To make required reports to the police, such as reporting gunshot wounds
For example, the provider may share certain information with your health insurer so that your health insurer may pay your bill. Your provider may also share certain information with the Department of Public Health to comply with public health laws.
It is important to note that providers cannot share your information unless authorized by law. For example, unless you authorize it, providers cannot share your medical records or information with your employer. In the old days, hospitals would hold press conferences to discuss the medical status of celebrities and sports teams would discuss a player’s injuries in great detail. Now, that hospital or sports team can only release information authorized by the patient.
Requesting and Receiving Your Medical Records
You need to request your medical records in writing. You can make the request in person while at your doctor or hospital or send a letter to the attention of Medical Records. If you have questions, call the office and ask to speak to the person in charge of medical records or ask for the medical records department. In a hospital, you can ask to speak to the patient advocate if you need further assistance.
The provider may respond by sending you the records or the provider may send you a bill. Under New York State Law, a provider can charge up to $0.75 per page of medical records. The State Legislature established this fee after some providers started charging large and arbitrary amounts for medical records. Most medical records are now stored electronically and increasingly providers will provide you with the medical records in a digital format, perhaps on a DVD or CD-Rom. Even if sent in an electronic format, a provider can still charge you $0.75 per page.
I hope you have found this information helpful. I practice personal injury law in the New York metropolitan area. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury through the negligence or recklessness of another, you may be entitled to compensation. If you have questions, you should consult an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. There is never a charge for this consultation. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.