The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides the framework through which patients and others may access their medical records. HIPAA refers to the information in these records as your “Protected Health Information” or “PHI.” You generally have a right to see and obtain a copy of all of your medical records.
Viewing and Obtaining a Copy of Your Medical Record
You have the right to see your medical record. You also have the right to get a copy of your medical record. These rights are often called the right of access to your medical record.
Usually, your health care provider must let your see your medical record within a few days after receiving your request. If you request a copy of your record, your provider must give you the copy within 30 days after receiving your request.
Generally, your health care provider must give you a copy in the format that you request. However, your medical provider is allowed to ask that you to pay a reasonable fee to get a copy of your record.
How Do I Request My Medical Record?
You may be able to find some information about requesting your medical record in your health care provider’s notice of privacy practices. Otherwise, ask your health care provider about their specific procedures for requesting a copy of your medical record. The provider may have a form for requesting your medical record. Use this form if one is available. Your health care provider may require that you put your request in writing.
What information should I include in my request for my medical record?
If your health care provider does not have a form for requesting your medical record, you check to see what information they require. Generally, when you ask for your medical record, you will want to include the following types of information in your request:
- Your name and address.
- Your telephone number.
- Your e-mail address.
- Your medical record number, if you know it, or your date of birth.
- Date(s) of service (such as the dates you were in a hospital).
- A description of the information that you want to see or copy. This might include:
Whether you want the entire record or just part of the record.
- Medical condition for which you are asking information.
- Specific test results.
- Whether you want X-rays or records made by heart monitors or similar medical devices.
- Whether you want to see your medical record, want a copy of your record, or both.
Can My Doctor Charge Me for Producing a Copy of My Medical Record?
Your health care provider is allowed to charge you for copying your medical record. If you request that they mail the copy to you, you can also be charged for postage. However, HIPAA generally prohibits medical providers from charging anything more than “reasonable” fees for providing the medical records to patients. See 45 CFR 164.524©. Arguably, fees that are not cost-based — even if permitted by a state statute — may be contrary to the HIPAA regulation and therefore preempted by this federal regulation.
Georgia Medical Records Costs
In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 31–33-3(a) specifically outlines the charges that can be imposed for the copying of medical records. These charges include:
|Search/Retrieval costs:||Up to $22.78|
|Certification of a record:||Not more than $8.54|
|Mailing of a record:||Actual postage costs|
|First 20 pages:||Not more than $0.85/page|
|Pages 21 through 100:||Not more than $0.74/page|
|Pages 101 and up:||Not more than $0.57/page|
Note: For medical records which are not in paper form, such as radiology films, the provider is entitled to charge the full reasonable cost of such reproduction.
Also note: Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, your health care provider cannot charge you a fee if you just review your medical record.
Other Information Relating to Requesting Patient Medical Records
- You do not have to choose between seeing your medical records and getting a copy of them. You have the right to both see and obtain a copy of your medical records.
- Your medical provider may ask for your Social Security number on your request for records. Some health care providers continue to use Social Security numbers as a way to identify medical records and there is nothing in the HIPAA Privacy Rule or the Social Security Act that prohibits a private health care provider from using patient Social Security numbers as refence numbers or identifiers in this way.
- You may have to show identification in order to see or get a copy of your medical record. If your health care provider does not know you well, they are supposed to make sure you are the person who has the right to get the medical record before they give it to you. Your health care provider may require reasonable proof of your identity. If you are acting under a health care power of attorney, your provider may require you to show them a copy of the power of attorney form. You also may be required to show that the power of attorney is in effect. For example, you may need a letter from the patient’s treating doctor to show that the patient is unable to make health care decisions.
- If your request for your medical record is accepted, your health care provider will inform you. If you simply asked to see your record, your health care provider must arrange a convenient time and place for you to review it. You have the right to bring one other person with you when you review your record. If you have requested a copy of your record, your health care provider must either send it to you or arrange for you to pick up a copy.
- Generally, it should take no more than 30 days to obtain a copy of your medical record. See 45 C.F.R. § 164.524 (b) (2). The time does not start until your provider receives your request for your medical record.
- There are times when the HIPAA Privacy Rule would let a health care provider take up to 90 days to respond to a request for a medical record. However, generally a patient has a right to receive a copy of his/her medical records and related bills within 30 days. See 45 C.F.R. § 164.524 (b) (2). If your medical provider requires more time to comply with your request, they must make a request for an extension of time. They may do this no more than twice.
- You can ask your health care provider to send the copy of your medical record to your regular address (such as your home) or to another address (such as to your office or to a friend’s house). As long as your request is reasonable, your provider must send your record to the place that you ask.
- Generally, your health care provider must give you your medical record in the format that you request if it is not difficult to do so. For example, if you request a paper copy of your record, your provider generally must give you a paper copy. Providers must also make sure that they send your records to you in a secure manner. Many health care providers are reluctant to send copies of medical records by e-mail or fax because of security concerns.
- Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, your health care provider can give you a summary of your medical record if you both agree in advance that it is all right for them to give you a summary, and to the fee, if any, they want to charge for writing the summary. Your provider can’t give you a summary in place of your medical record unless you agree. If you do agree to receive a summary, your health care provider must generally make the summary available to you within 10 working days from the date of your request. If your record is very long and complicated, or if you were just discharged from a health care facility, your provider can take up to 30 days to give you the summary. Your health care provider can charge you a reasonable fee for the actual time they spent preparing the summary.
- If you health care provider denies your request for your medical record, they must inform you in writing of that fact (by letter, fax, email, or possibly telegram). They must tell you why your request was denied. They also must tell you if you have a right to have their decision reviewed and how you can file a complaint.
- Your provider cannot deny your request for your medical record because you have not paid your medical bill.
- If your health care provider doesn’t have the record that you requested, they don’t have to locate it for you. But your provider must tell you where the record is kept if they know.
- The HIPAA Privacy Rule doesn’t allow your ealth care provider to avoid providing you with your radiographs (x-ray films), by sending a copy to another health care provider. Your provider must give you access to your x-ray if you request it.
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