Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why won't the doctor give me my records?

I got a call from a man the other day who was very upset because he wanted a copy of his medical records and the staff at his physician's office wouldn't turn them over. I hear this all the time and it makes me very angry.

Doctors and hospitals are required by law to maintain copies of medical records and they are further required by law to produce copies of those records to patients if the pateint requests them. Obviously, you need to sign a release form, which the doctor's office can provide, but this is not a big deal. Once you sign the form, there is absolutely no reason that you should be prevented from obtaining your records. Despite what many office manager's may tell you, you do not even need to give them a reason. They are your records and you are entitled to them.

There are a few things you need to understand with medical records. The law gives the doctor or hospital 30 days to produce the records. So, just because they don't give them to you the moment you ask for them doesn't mean they are doing anything wrong. However, if they go beyond the 30 days, they are in serious violation of the law. In fact, every day beyond the 30 days is a seperate violation of the law which brings a seperate penalty.

Also, they are entitled to charge a "reasonable" fee for copying the records. If you only have a few pages they typically don't charge, but if you have a significant amount they are allowed to be paid the costs of copying them. What is "reasonable" is obviously open to interpretation.

If you are trying to get records on behalf of an adult relative things are a little different. You may need to show that you have power of attorney to obtain the records, even if you are the person's spouse. If you are trying to get the records of a deceased relative you will likely need to show that you have been appointed as the executor of the person's estate and that you are entitled to the records. However, many facilities will give the records to a spouse, without formal appointment, if you provide a copy of the death certificate.

If you are obtaining records because you are considering pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a provider you should keip in mind a few other issues. First, the hospital or doctor will most likely NOT give you all of the records, even though you asked for them. It may not be a malicious attempt to prevent you from learning something, it may just be a misquided attempt to not overwhelm you with a ton of records. Either way, you should just assume that they are not giving you everything you ask for. Second, it may be advantageous to avoid letting the health care provider know that you are investigating a lawsuit. There have been cases were records are lost, altered, or added to, after people learn there is a possibility they might get sued.


Kevin said...

My name is Kevin Hauser and I am the Director of New Business Development for MedeFile International. I had come across your blog in doing some research. I believe MedeFile can help many individuals that are having this problem.
In brief, MedeFile is an electronic medical records management service that collects, digitizes, stores, and organizes all of our member's ACTUAL medical records. MedeFile gives you the member, the ability to access your complete medical history 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from virtually anywhere in the world. In addition, we provide each BASIC and Premium MedeFile member with a MedeDrive. The MedeDrive is a portable USB device that works with any Windows based PC. This device simply plugs in to a USB port and instantly auto loads that member's vital emergency information (Allergies, Medications, Medical Alerts, Emergency Contacts, etc). The MedeDrive also has a password protected area that contains all of that member's ACTUAL medical records as well. The MedeDrive does NOT require any internet connection in order to view its contents and can be updated anytime with no additional charges.
Our system also provides for the storage of Vital Documents. These may include your Advanced Directives (Living Wills, DNR's, Health Care Proxies), as well as other important documents. MedeFile has been featured on various news segments with regard to the devastating Hurricanes we have seen in the recent years. MedeFile may also qualify as a medical expense under a Medical Information Plan in IRS Publication 502.

It is important to note that MedeFile does the work for its members. We contact the providers and collect the records on their behalf. I urge you to visit our website at for more information. Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have. Thank you in advance.

John said...

Hi, I am Mark came to your blog while searching for medical negligence blogs as this is my hubby. Hmmmm it is really quite confused. A medical record is a reference for each patient containing valuable information about the patient like the patient's name, address, date of birth etc. The medical record also serves as a medical history for each patient and contains documentation regarding the patient's former illnesses, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. Usually, medical records are maintained independently by each healthcare provider having an association with the patient. Medical Negligence solicitors.

mahak said...

I also dont undesrtand why doctors dont give records to patients.i also heard many cases.even one of my friend ask for his records doctor denied by saying you dont need.I completely relate to issues highlighted in this blog..Hope they won't happen in future..
medical records management