If you’ve been to the doctor throughout your life, you know that they will look at information about you during the appointment. You also likely already know that medical records contain information such as immunization history.
But, while your doctor can see this information about you, do you have the right to know this info, too? The answer is yes. You have a legal right to see your own medical records, and the good news is that it’s generally pretty simple to request your medical records. Here’s what you need to know:
The Importance of Medical Records for Patients
While the laws from state to state vary, there are state and federal-level laws and protections for patients who want to look at their own medical records. Most of these laws state that patients have the right to directly obtain these records in some fashion.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, this can be done by looking at the record or receiving copies in the mail. The right to access this information is often described as being a part of the right to privacy, and it’s also covered under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
Accessing Medical Records And HIPAA
Part of HIPAA outlines what’s called the Privacy Rule. This clause gives individuals the “right to inspect, review, and receive” copies of both medical and billing records related to medical care.
While there are a few exceptions to this, this isn’t a concern for most people. You can look up information in your state about these exceptions.
Other than your healthcare providers, only you or your personal representative is allowed to look at these records.
How Do You Access These Medical Records?
In most cases, you can contact any medical facility where you’ve received care and request to see your records. You will likely have to fill out a form and give authorization. This is because the medical facility needs to know they are releasing this sensitive information to the right person. The process will vary a bit depending on where you live and the protocols for each doctor’s office or hospital, but they will have a system to sign a form for release.
Can You Get Your Medical Records Online?
The answer to this depends on the specific clinic or hospital where you’re requesting the information from. Many healthcare providers and hospitals have a way for patients to access their information online. You can often use online portals to look at information like medical records and test results. You also may be able to use these online resources to request photocopies of your medical records.
The easiest way to know if you can quickly access this information online is to talk to call the clinic or hospital where you have received care.
It’s also worth pointing out that there isn’t an extensive open database where you can access your medical records or someone else’s. You will need to log in securely and prove your identity to see your own medical records, and you will not be able to access someone else’s unless you are the parent, guardian, or personal representative. This is due to privacy laws covering this info.
Do You Need To Send Medical Records To Other Healthcare Facilities
When you go to a new doctor or get admitted to the hospital, the new provider will be able to view your medical records. They have internal systems that allow them to access this information or request it from your previous doctors. This makes the process much easier, as you won’t need to request this information and worry about getting it to a new doctor.
Why Would Someone Need To Access Their Medical Records?
There are many reasons why an individual might need a copy of their medical history. These reasons can range from wanting to know the information for themselves to needing certain information to fill out government forms or travel.
When requesting medical records for personal use, you may have to pay a fee, but the cost depends on where you are requesting the records from. It’s important to note that doctors can’t deny you access to these documents, even if you still owe them money in medical fees.
They are only allowed to charge a fee for the process of copying or mailing the records.
Healthcare Providers Must Release The Information Securely
Because your medical records contain private and sensitive information, it’s vital that these records are only released to the correct person and that the process is secure. While it might be stressful to worry about someone else seeing your medical records when they shouldn’t, you can rest assured that medical offices and hospitals have standards they must uphold. They may use various secure software platforms or other checks and balances to prevent mix-ups. You can learn more here about this process.
How To Discover More About Your Medical Records
The best way to access your medical records and get specifics about the process is to reach out to your own doctor or healthcare provider. The administration for the facility will know about this process and likely deal with many of these requests on a regular basis. They will be able to walk you through the process and tell you more about the specific rules and regulations in your area.
More Resources To Look Into
The federal government has many resources online at their healthIT.gov website. There, you can learn more about health records and your rights related to them. They even have some rather useful videos on various topics such as medical records and third parties.
While it can be confusing or complicated to figure out the various legalities, there are many legitimate sources that can help you answer any questions you have. Most healthcare providers can also assist you with specific questions or point you to further information.