Primary care providers usually controlled medical records; however, patients now tend to receive and save their own information.
As one of our rights, having access to our records can help us to avoid other problems. Without them, we would not be able to request consults, tests, or medications that are vital to us.
If you are interested in finding how to get your old medical records, you’ve come to the right article.
Old medical records
If the record you are looking for is very old, like 20 years or more, it may be challenging to obtain the information because, in many cases, your doctor may be retired or not available at the moment.
This is a controversial topic that we can find even in media such as Reuters. Here is an extract from one of their articles:
However, there are several ways to find your doctor and, therefore, your records. Try to contact these:
- Your local or state medical society: Many of the health departments of these institutions require annual registration; they probably have updated information about your doctor.
- Your health insurance company: Even if your doctor does not work with the insurance anymore, they will have some contact details.
- Any hospital where your doctor worked: Most hospitals can give information about your doctor’s work hours and other pertinent information.
If you do not get your records this way, you will need to rebuild them. It is a process that consists of:
- Contact all the laboratories, specialists, and hospitals you have visited.
- Ask your insurance about all the health plans that you used.
- And verify the copies that you may have from prescriptions, exams, and diagnoses.
How to request medical records
To request medical records, most hospitals or clinics will give you a form in their facilities or via mail. If the institution does not have a form, you will have to write a letter that includes:
- Full name.
- Social Security Number.
- Residence address.
- Telephone number.
- Date of birth.
- Specified requested records.
- And legible signature.
On the other hand, the Rocket Lawyer website has an online tool to help you write the letter. Click here to try it.
Also, it generally takes between 30 and 60 days to receive the records. We recommend keeping a copy with the date of request, and if there is no response after several attempts, you should contact the Health Department.
Besides, you will most likely have to pay a fee to get the documents; the price may vary, but it should always be reasonable.
The institution cannot, in any way, retain the records even if you did not complete the payment. They will have to look for other alternatives or take legal actions.
As we mentioned in the beginning, the age of the records may affect if they are available or not.
Doctors, hospitals, and laboratories must save adult medical records for a minimum of six years, and children’s records for three years after turning 18 or 21 (this may vary depending on the state).
Patients have the right to obtain the following documents:
- Notes your doctors.
- Diagnostic results.
- Blood tests.
- Genetic testing.
- Any information used to establish your diagnosis and treatment.
Not available records
Yes, certain records can be denied, mainly those that include pathologies related to mental health; this occurs because the exposure of this information can harm the doctor’s relationship with the patient.
In these cases, the denial must be written by the doctor explaining the reasons.
Moreover, if you are unfairly denied your medical records or if the documents have been exposed without your consent, you can formally file a complaint with the Department of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, consult here: www.hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint.
To sum up, here are some legal facts that you need to know about this topic:
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) confirms the right of citizens to obtain their medical records (doctor’s notes, lab results, billing, etc.), either manuscript or electronic.
- It is primarily the patient who has the full right to request their medical records. Still, HIPPA also allows the patient’s parents, guardian, or caregiver with written permission from the patient.
- Certain entities that you have authorized (by signing any contract or form) may also request your medical records. For example: insurance companies, laboratories, universities, your employer, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, among others.
- If a doctor dies, the records will be sent to a health care institution or an accredited commercial storage that accepts the responsibility to protect the documents.
- Although this information must be cautiously protected, it can be sent through emails or mobile applications.
Co-founder of AllAboutCareers, one of the top sites for graduates, students and school leavers websites. I studied at the University of Essex. This is my site I talk about finance and help with administrative processes in the USA.