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The Ins and Outs of Obtaining Your Medical Records

By: Anapol Weiss

The Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that gives patients the right to receive, inspect and review a copy of their medical information held by health plans and health care providers. Below are answers to a few questions about a patient’s right to see his or her medical records.

What information is protected?

The Privacy Rule protects information that doctors, nurses, and other health care providers put in a patient’s medical record, as well as conversations a doctor has about a patient’s care or treatment with nurses and others. Further, the law protects billing information, patient information kept by health insurers, and most other patient health information held by those who must follow these laws.

Can I permit other people to see my records?

Patients can allow a “personal representative” to inspect and receive a copy of their protected health information. Individual state law may determine how a personal representative can be named. For example, a person who can make health care decisions for a patient using a health care power of attorney is the patient’s personal representative, according to HIPAA. In the case of minors, the parent or legal guardian is typically the personal representative. When a patient has passed away, his or her personal representative is the executor or administrator of the deceased individual’s estate or the person legally authorized by a court or state law to act on the behalf of the deceased individual or his or her estate.

Can my health care provider discuss my health information with those involved in my care if I am unconscious or unable to do so?

If you are unable to give permission, your health care provider may use his or her professional judgment and discuss your health information with family, friends or others involved in your care if the provider believes it is in your best interest. Your health care provider may only share the information the person needs to know about your care or payment for your care.

Being Your Own Medical Advocate

Patients play an important role in their medical care. A previous post outlined ways patients can be their own health advocate, including:

  • Speaking up to ask for clarification or further explanation

  • Preparing for an appointment with a list of issues and/or questions to discuss

  • Reviewing medical bills for errors

  • Bringing another person to important appointments to ensure all pertinent information in understood

  • Getting a second opinion on a diagnosis, testing or treatment

Patients should always feel comfortable acting as their own advocates to ensure they are receiving the best medical care possible. In turn, physicians, nurses and other medical professionals are expected to provide them with the highest quality of care.

Contact our medical malpractice attorneys for assistance if you are a victim of medical negligence. We can investigate your situation and answer your questions.