How To Get Your Medical Records
Learn How to Get Your Health Record
The Guide to Getting & Using Your Health Records is for patients who want to get their health records. This guide is also for people who need the record of someone they represent or care for, like a child, an elderly parent, or an adult with a disability. A health record (also known as a medical record) is a written account of a person’s health history. It includes medications, treatments, tests, immunizations, and notes from visits to a health care provider.
You have a right to your health record
A federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives you the right to see and get a copy of your health record. Most health insurance plans and health care providers — including doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, labs, and nursing homes — must follow this law.
Yet it can be a challenge to get your health record if you’ve seen providers in various places. Each one may require you to follow a different process when asking for your health record.
We’ll show you how to get your health record — and use it
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created this guide to help you through the process of getting your health record. We’ll show you how to make sure your records are correct and complete — and how to use them to get the most out of your health care.
What Is in Your Health Record
Your health record can help you take control of your own health, well-being, and safety. Find out what’s in a health record so you’ll know exactly what to ask for.
Health Record Purpose
Having your health record makes it easier to:
- Share important health information with family members, a new doctor or other health care provider, or a medical emergency team
- Coordinate health care with different providers, clinics, and hospitals
- Make sure your information is up to date and correct
- Avoid repeating tests and procedures you’ve already had
- Share health information, like immunization records, with schools, camps, and others
What Should You Ask For
Health records can sometimes be hundreds of pages long, so knowing which part of the record you want can be important. If you’re not sure, ask for help at your provider’s office.
- Full record: If you’re switching to a new primary care provider or health insurance plan, you’ll want to get a copy of your full record to give to them. You may also want a copy for your own use.
- Partial record: If you want to share specific health information with new providers or others, you may only need a partial record. For example:
- Records of immunizations
- Provider’s notes from a single visit
- Test results or X-rays
Health Record Format
Health records are available in different formats:
- Electronic records, like Word documents, PDFs, and data your computer can read
- Paper records
Who is the health record for? IT IS For yourself!
Choose the format that works best for you. Electronic records are the most convenient because they’re easier to update and to share. In most cases, they take up less space.
- Structured data (data your computer or smart phone app can read)
- Text file (like a Word document)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
A: No. According to federal law, your provider must give you access to your health record, even if you have an unpaid bill.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
A: There are a few reasons why getting your record can take some time:
- Records can be thousands of pages long, so sorting through them to find the right information can take time.
- Your health care provider may have many requests. Some large providers get over 10,000 requests a month.
- If you are asking for older records, they may be on paper in storage. It may take some time to find and copy these records.
How to fill out a health or medical record release form
Your provider’s medical request release form may be organized differently — there is not a standard form — but these are the questions you’re likely to see.
Bring a form of photo identification
If you deliver your request form or letter in person, you’ll be asked to present your ID — like a driver’s license.
You May Have to Pay a Fee
You may have to pay a fee. However, according to your federal rights, your health care provider may only charge a reasonable fee for:
- Making a paper copy or electronic media copy — like a CD or USB (thumb) drive — of your health record
- Mailing you a paper or electronic media copy of your health record
When you send in the request for your health record, ask your provider how much it will cost to get your record.
If your health care provider says they can’t provide access to your health record because of HIPAA, tell them that both HIPAA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) require them to give you access to your record. This is your protected right under the law. Learn more about HIPAA and how it protects your right to see and get your health information.
What happens when you request your health record?
This graphic shows the process of what happens when you request your health record from your doctor’s office. It details the process both from your perspective and from your doctor’s perspective. First, check your patient portal to see if the health information you need is available through the portal. If it’s not, contact your doctor’s office to ask how to request your record. Next, you’ll have to fill out and submit a health record release form. Depending on the office, you may have to do that in person, by email, or by fax. The doctor’s office will then gather your information. Federal law gives health care providers 30 days to deliver your health record. After they gather the information, the office will prepare your record for you. You may receive it on paper or electronically, like on a CD or USB drive. Finally, you’ll receive your record either in person or through your patient portal. Once you have your record, you can share it or use it to manage your health.