Can Your Doctor Block Your Access to Your Medical Records?

Doctor standing with arms folded in front of medical records

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No. In every state, your health care provider must provide you with a copy of your medical records if you ask for them.

Your medical records include your medical history, your family medical history, information about your lifestyle, physical examination and laboratory results, medications prescribed, diagnoses and prognoses, results of treatment and procedures undergone, allergies and other risk factors, disabilities and limitations, and participation in research projects.


HIPAA Guarantees Access

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law that ensures your privacy related to medical issues. It also gives you the right to see and make copies of your medical records for any reason. Though originally designed to provide access to paper medical files, the law applies to accessing electronic medical records as well.

A health care provider cannot deny you access to your medical record just because you have an outstanding medical bill.

Health care providers can withhold certain types of medical records, including psychotherapy notes and medical information that the provider believes could reasonably endanger a patient’s life, physical safety or the safety of another person. The denial can be appealed.


Seek Records for a Med Mal Case

Medical records are essential to medical malpractice claims, when you claim that you suffered an illness or injury because a health care professional negligently failed to follow a generally accepted standard of care. They are generally admissible as evidence. Your lawyer will send your records to a medical specialist who will be able to locate any lapses in standards of care.

If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, act quickly. All states have time limits for filing a malpractice lawsuit. They range from one to seven years.


Request Your Records in Writing

A request for medical records should be made in writing, so that both you and the provider have a record of the transaction. With your permission, your attorney can also make this request. Doctors and hospitals can charge you for copying and handling the records. Generally, a patient’s request must be answered within 30 days, although some states have a shorter turnaround time.

Others who can request medical records include parents of minor children (with some exceptions), a legal guardian (appointed due to age, incapacity or disability) or a person whom you have chosen to act on your behalf in a health care power of attorney. Also, the executor of a deceased person’s estate can ask to see the deceased’s medical records.

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