If you want to obtain a copy of your medical records, it’s important to understand the process of getting the records, the rights you have to them, and any associated costs.
Whether you request your records in person, by phone, or by mail may depend on your medical provider. If you’re requesting them by mail and are in the United States, you can use findpostoffice.org to find your nearest post office to mail your medical records request or to pick up your medical records if they are mailed to you. Findpostoffice.org makes it easy by providing the benefit of searching for post offices by city, state, zip code, or your current location. The website also offers a blog that answers any questions you may have regarding how to use their mailing services.
What Are Medical Records?
Your medical records are made up of information about your health such as medical test results, diagnoses, treatment plans, laboratory reports, doctors’ notes, and even billing information. Your records show the story of your medical health and provide the background of how your healthcare providers follow your health and show the how and why of the decisions they make regarding your health.
Why Should You Obtain Copies of Your Medical Records
There are several reasons you may want to obtain your medical records:
1. To Have Your Medical Information Available in an Emergency
If you experience a medical emergency, it may be helpful to have information from your medical records available to ensure emergency personnel will make the best decisions regarding treatment. If you are unable to respond, having your information available can be life-saving.
2. To Make Sure Your Medical Records are Accurate
The accuracy of your medical records is important to ensure your healthcare provider makes the best decisions for your health. If you find an error, be sure to contact your healthcare provider and request your records be corrected.
3. To Share with a New Medical Provider
If you’re switching healthcare providers, you may want to obtain your records to look through them beforehand. While your new healthcare provider can request the records themselves, having your own copy will give you insight into the information they will receive regarding your health and how/why your previous medical providers treated you.
Do You Have Rights to Get Copies of Your Medical Records?
No matter whether your medical provider maintains your records on paper (a.k.a. hard copy) or digitally, you have a right to obtain most of them, thanks to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
Obtaining your medical records isn’t always as easy as asking for them. That’s why it’s important to know your rights and which records you are entitled to receive.
If your provider’s office says they can only provide your records to another medical professional, know that, according to HIPAA, they are required to provide them to you, most of the time within 30 days. (If they cannot provide them within 30 days, they must give you a reason why there is a delay.) In addition to you, only your personal representative is allowed to request your records.
In certain circumstances, all of your information may not be provided to you. The healthcare providers can determine, at their discretion, to withhold any information that they think may cause harm to you or another person. Click here to find out what information may be withheld.
How To Obtain Copies of Your Medical Records
To obtain copies of your medical records, you will first need to contact the healthcare provider or facility where the records are stored and request them. This may mean that you need to contact several different facilities in addition to your primary care physician. Have you seen a cardiologist? A pulmonologist? A chiropractor? An endocrinologist? A podiatrist? How about a chiropractor? Think back to any medical professionals you may have been referred to in the past. Contact them first by phone to see what their protocol is when they receive medical records requests from patients.
Depending on the provider’s preferences, you may be required to fill out a release form and provide identification to verify your identity. They may ask for your name, Social Security number, contact information, how you would like the records delivered to you, and your signature.
Some providers may charge a fee which may be posted in their offices. Legally, the fee has to be reasonable and cover the cost of providing your records, which may include labor costs and office supplies.
Whether you make your request in person, by phone, or by mail, obtaining copies of your medical records is an efficient solution when you want to keep tabs on your personal health. Moreover, you’ll have your medical history right at your fingertips should you need to provide it for alternative providers. By taking advantage of getting and keeping a copy of your medical records, you’ll have peace of mind should a medical emergency occur, and you can share that information when time is of the essence.