Requesting and Obtaining Medical Records Yourself from a Hospital or Your Local Health Provider

Federal law mandates that your medical records be available to you in either paper or electronic form. Although HIPAA—The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—has been in effect since 1996, according to Consumer Reports, patients still run into trouble obtaining medical records from a hospital or a local health provider. A recent study by Yale University School of Medicine found a number of discrepancies in the information given to patients regarding the release of their medical records, along with noncompliance by medical facilities with federal and state regulations.

Getting medical records on your own can be a daunting undertaking. They most often require signed request forms and can be hundreds of pages long. So you have to determine exactly what you need ahead of time. Even if you request an entire medical record, you may not get relevant information, such as nurse’s notes, for example, if you don’t specifically request them.

If you choose to attempt to get the records yourself, your first step should be to go to your healthcare provider’s secure online patient portal, where you can view some of your health information such as lab results or immunization records. You can also call your provider to ask for the person in charge of releasing health records. Also, some test findings, such as X-rays and MRI scans, may not be available electronically, so you may have to work with the formats your healthcare provider is willing to send.

What to Ask For

Most practices or facilities will ask you to fill out a complicated request form for your medical records. This request form can usually be picked up at the office or delivered by fax, postal service, or email. If the provider doesn’t have a form, you can write a letter to make your request. Be sure to include your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, phone number, e-mail address, list of records being requested, dates of service, signature, and delivery option—by fax, post, email, or in person.

Cost and Time Involved

Be aware that at a minimum you will be charged a fee for each page and that hospital charts are often hundreds of pages long.  Prices quoted may vary widely from hospital to hospital, and some charge significantly above the federal recommendation of $6.50 for an electronic record.

After making your request, the provider has up to thirty days to deliver your medical record. Doctors, hospitals, and labs are required to keep adult medical records for a minimum of six years, although this rule can vary from state to state. If you’re requesting specific lab tests or hospital admission records, often it’s best to make that request to the lab or hospital rather than your primary care physician. They are likely to be more complete and may even be kept for a longer period of time than a private medical practice.

Understanding Medical Records

Medical records can also be confusing to the average person who doesn’t have medical training. But a medical malpractice attorney will have reviewed hundreds of charts and will be aware of even a slight medical error, such as giving a drug intravenously instead of orally or by shot—a factor that could be the entire foundation of a lawsuit based on a medication error.

Getting the Legal Help You Need

Working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in the event of an injury or disability caused by medical negligence means getting the help you need during a difficult and stressful period. Trusting reputable legal expertise, guidance, and advice gives vital support and affirms that you’re not alone in a time of crisis. The medical malpractice team at Jim Dodson Law has decades of experience handling complex medical malpractice cases based on hospital negligence. Just tell us what happened. If it sounds like there could be a viable case of hospital or healthcare provider negligence, let us obtain the relevant records for you. It’s what we do.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.