Accessing Your Medical Records

You have a right to inspect your medical records held by U.S. health care providers covered by the Privacy Rule. Providers cannot deny you access to a copy of your health records even if you have not yet paid for their services, but they are entitled to charge you for the costs of copying and mailing the records to you.

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There are a few exceptions to your rights to access your records. The main exception is a mental health provider’s psychotherapy notes, which are kept separate from the medical and billing records. The National Institutes of Health determine which providers are covered by the Privacy Rule.

Request Form

You must lodge your request via an official form. Many providers allow you to access the request form via their website, but you must then print and fill out the form. Other providers will mail a form to you or provide one when you visit their facility.

You can submit the form in person or by fax or mail, but you must also provide a copy of a government-issued ID to enable the institution to verify your identity.

Request forms vary from one provider to another but the main features remain the same. A typical example is available at the CORE Institute website. You will find the form by selecting Medical Records Request under Patient Resources. Another example is at the University of Michigan website. You must use the correct form for your health provider.

You will need to provide your name and contact details (including any alternative name you are known by at the health care facility), and the address and contact details for your health care facility.

The form also has a section for you to explain the reason for your request for a copy of your medical records. For personal use, you may be charged for photocopying if you request paper copies, or for production of a CD or flash drive if these forms are offered.

Details Included or Released

The last two years of information are included by default and you can select what type of records you want included. These include history and physical examinations, laboratory tests, X-Rays, and other imaging reports for the dates you select.

The form also allows you to decide if you want your records released to other parties. For example, you may decide not to release any information on your HIV status, communicable diseases, or substance abuse.

Correcting Errors

When you receive the copy of your medical records check the details for errors or omissions. You can ask your health care provider to have the details amended if you find any. The provider must respond to your request and correct the information if it is inaccurate, or add information if it is incomplete. If the provider does not comply with your request you can submit a statement of disagreement and the provider is required by law to add this to your records.

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