How to Request your Medical Records

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gave patients the right to obtain copies of most of their medical records. Since then, with the advent of new technology designed to put the power into patient hands, it’s easier than ever to request medical records for a personal health record (PHR).

Patients no longer need to depend on their primary care physicians to maintain or request their health data. The process of submitting medical records requests is complicated, however. Healthcare providers must protect PHI by strictly controlling to whom medical records are released.

ChartRequest, one of the top release of information (ROI) software companies, can help simplify and expedite the request process. Our streamlined workflow and expert staff help requestors save time and money. Additionally, medical records requests submitted with ChartRequest are generally returned quicker than those placed to a facility by an individual.

What records can you request?

If you are trying to request your own medical information, the HIPAA Privacy Rule gives you the right to access most types of medical records. You can also request medical records for your children or others under your care, such as an elderly relative. 

Additionally, the following HIPAA covered entities (individuals and institutions that have signed the Business Associate Agreement) may request your medical records with a signed medical release form:

  • Caregivers
  • Healthcare providers
  • Patient advocates
  • Law professionals
  • Health and life insurance agents

Every patient also has the right to revoke the authorization by submitting a written request. The healthcare provider should include instructions within the authorization form. The Privacy Rule also prevents any retaliation for refusing to sign or revoking an authorization.

The right of access outlined in the Privacy Rule excludes some types of medical records, such as the following:

  • Information not used to inform healthcare decisions
  • Psychotherapy notes maintained separately from the patient’s medical records
  • Information gathered for civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding

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How do you create a medical record request?

When you need to make a request for medical records, first check with the healthcare provider or facility to ask about their preferred method of submission. Double-check the fax number or email address before sending the request to ensure it’s sent to the correct person. 

Next, fill out your authorization form, including the following:

  • The patient’s basic individually identifiable health information (the information that helps determine their identity)
  • A description of the specific records required
  • Reason for requesting the PHI
  • An expiration date for the request
  • The patient’s signature and the date thereof 

Reach out to the healthcare provider or facility to verify that they have received your request. If they have not, verify the contact information used to share the request and resubmit the authorization form. If your provider has received the authorization, be patient while they process your request. 

With ChartRequest, you can electronically authorize every medical record request with an on-file signature. Additionally, communicating with healthcare providers processing your requests is easy with our provider chat function. 

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How long does it take to get medical records?

Healthcare providers are required by law to provide requested medical records within 30 days of receiving a request. If needed, however, they may take an extension of an extra 30 days by notifying the requestor of the cause of the delay. As such, your medical records may take up to 60 days to arrive.

To reduce this timeframe, keep your healthcare provider accountable by regularly calling for status updates. There’s no need to call daily, but occasional reminders can help reduce turnaround time for ROI requests. Additionally, office staff will likely be able to inform you of any difficulties retrieving the requested records.

If you have not received your PHI after 30 days (60 with the extension) or if your request was wrongly denied, you can file a complaint to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). You must file your complaint within 180 days of the denial or deadline in order for it to be reviewed. 

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How much do medical records cost?

When gathering medical records for distribution, healthcare providers have to follow strict federal and state pricing guidelines. These guidelines require healthcare providers to only charge a reasonable, cost-based fee that includes:

  • Labor for copying the medical records
  • Labor for creating a summary or explanation of the PHI if specifically requested
  • Reimbursement for the cost of supplies
  • Postage if applicable

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), healthcare providers may not deny a medical record request due to nonpayment of the rendered services. They may also not charge the requestor for the search and retrieval of requested medical records.

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What should you do after receiving your medical records?

Medical records contain a treasure trove of personal information, and it’s important to prevent hackers from accessing it for malicious purposes. Data breaches caused 24.1 million incidents of medical record leaks in 2020, accounting for 91.2%. Therefore, you must take extreme care to protect your medical records and your identity.

The first thing you should do when assembling a PHR is ensure that the computer storing the files is secure. Utilize a trusted antivirus program and scan regularly to detect any malware before it can do any major damage. Additionally, you should have a password set up for both your computer and router. 

If you are using medical records retrieval software that allows you to store records in the cloud, be sure to use a secure, unique password. For additional security, utilize Google Authenticator on the email account used for the software. The app will randomly generate codes on your phone that must be entered when signing in.

Once you’re certain your protected health information (PHI) is safeguarded, decide which healthcare providers should receive your medical records. For some doctors, such as your primary care physician, it makes sense to share the entire record. Specialists, however, may only need to review the most relevant records.

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What if there are errors with your medical records?

If you notice an error in your medical records, contact the healthcare provider who created the record and request that they make an amendment. They must review your request and, if applicable, correct any inaccurate or incomplete information. 

Once the healthcare provider has fixed the error, share an updated copy of your medical records with your relevant healthcare providers. This helps ensure treatment isn’t provided with incorrect information. 

If the healthcare provider does not make the requested changes, you may submit a statement of disagreement to be included in the record. This will prompt your other healthcare providers to inquire about any confusion. Additionally, they can rerun any tests to verify potentially bad information.

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How do you get medical records if your doctor is no longer in practice?

Whether your healthcare provider has retired, passed away, or moved, the law requires somebody to maintain their records. 

If the healthcare provider was part of a practice that is remaining operational, simply contact the practice to request your records. There is a high chance that they will still have your records on file, and, if not, they will know who you need to contact to submit the request. 

It’s still possible to track down your medical records even if the healthcare provider was not part of a practice that is remaining operational or the practice has closed. Just try the following steps:

If the healthcare provider moved to another state, find out where they are practicing. A quick Google search will likely give you all the necessary information, including photographs for reference. Try calling your insurance company for their contact information if this fails.

If they retired or passed away, the medical records will likely be stored with another healthcare provider or a HIPAA-compliant records storage company. Call and ask the local medical society where the records may be archived.

If you are unable to retrieve your medical records from the original healthcare provider, think about who you have shared the medical records with. For example, if your primary care physician has received records from your specialists, they can release them to you if requested. 

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ChartRequest is here to help

Requesting medical records is easy with ChartRequest. With our software, users can submit medical records requests to multiple providers at once, save a signature for electronic authorizations, securely store PHI, and much more. ChartRequest can also save frustrating hours of tracking medical records requests, as users can view the current status anytime. Want to find out more? Create an account today.

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