Having your medical records can prove beneficial in a number of situations:
- You are changing doctors
- You are undergoing treatment that involves numerous doctors and specialists
- You are compiling family medical history
- You want to ensure continuity of care
- You want to make sure that your medical records are accurate and complete
Medical records may be helpful in determining whether or not you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice. Typically, medical records include information regarding your medical history as well as your family’s medical history, examination and test results, doctors’ notes, descriptions of medical treatment received and/or recommended, and medications prescribed. The information contained in medical records is often complicated and best interpreted by highly experienced attorneys such as those at Comitz Law.
Your rights to access medical records
Generally speaking, patients in Pennsylvania have the right to receive their medical records. That right is provided by the HIPAA Privacy Rule and Pennsylvania law, however, there are some limited exceptions. For instance, if your provider believed that seeing your medical record would endanger you or someone else, the provider could deny your request. In addition, providers who do not use computers to send health information or to file claims may be exempt from the federal HIPAA regulations.
Your ability to get a copy of your records may depend on when you last visited your doctor. Pennsylvania law requires doctors to keep patients records for at least seven years from the date of the last treatment or for one year after majority for minors. When the patient is a minor, the records must be kept for seven years following the age of majority.
Parents of minors typically have the same rights to your child’s medical records as they do to their own. If you’ve been appointed as the executor/executrix or administrator/administratix of a person’s estate, and that person has died, you have the right to the decedent’s medical records. Pennsylvania law also gives next-of-kin access to the decedent’s medical records. Finally, if you’re filing a lawsuit, your lawyer has the right to obtain them on your behalf.
A healthcare provider may not deny your request for medical records because of an unpaid medical bill.
The procedure to obtain your medical records will vary depending on the healthcare provider and/or facility involved in your medical treatment. Some may simply require a written request submitted to a Medical Records Department, while others may require you to fill out a form specific to the healthcare provider or facility. Those forms are typically accessible online. You can contact your healthcare provider to ascertain the procedure for requesting your medical records.
Your healthcare provider is allowed to charge a reasonable fee for copying medical records for you. (There is no charge for viewing your records at your doctor’s office or having them transferred to another provider.)
The Pennsylvania Department of Health publishes the guidelines and fees that a healthcare provider or facility may charge in response to a request for production of medical charts or records. (https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Administrative/Pages/Medical-Record-Fees.aspx ) While Pennsylvania law permits a charge for searching for and retrieving medical records, HIPPA does not. If your provider is covered under federal HIPPA regulations, you should not have to pay the fee.
Deadlines for Providing Records
Within 30 days after they receive your request, your healthcare provider must either (1) let you see or give you a copy of your medical records, or (2) tell you that they are denying your request for your records.
Your healthcare provider can take up to 60 days to respond to your request if your records are kept off site. If your provider is unable to meet these deadlines, they can get one 30-day extension. Under those circumstances, your healthcare provider must give you a written explanation for the delay and let you know the date they expect to respond. In any event, it should not take more than 90 days total to get a response to your request.
Once you receive your medical records, carefully review them. If any important information is missing, or if there is any incorrect information, you have a right to request that your records be amended.
Filing a Complaint
If you have been denied access to your medical records, or denied the opportunity to amend your medical records, you can file a complaint. Contact one of the following:
Pennsylvania Department of State (for complaints regarding individual providers)
Pennsylvania Department of Health (for complaints regarding facilities)
If you have questions about obtaining your medical records because you suspect medical malpractice, call Comitz Law at (570) 829-1111 or email email@example.com to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.