Fair Care Project
Challenging the Status Quo of Healthcare
  • Medical Billing Submission

    Want to submit your bill for review at no charge?

    How to get, collect, and upload the medical bills and invoices required for case review.
    Bill Submission Form

​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

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.

Submit Medical Bill

​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:
    • Allergies
    • Medications
    • 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)
  • PDF
  • Paper
Submit Medical Bill

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION

Q: Can my health care provider’s office refuse to give me my health record because I have an unpaid bill?

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

Q: Why is it taking so long to get my record?

A: There are a few reasons why getting your record can take some time:

  1. Records can be thousands of pages long, so sorting through them to find the right information can take time.
  2. Your health care provider may have many requests. Some large providers get over 10,000 requests a month.
  3. 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.

Patient Information

Whose health records do you want? Print their full name, date of birth, patient identification number (PIN), or medical record number (MRN). (PINs and MRNs are assigned by providers. If you don’t know your number, you can ask your provider.) You can request the health records for only 1 person per form.

Clinic, Hospital, Care Provider

Who has the information you want? This can be the name of any person who has cared for you or the place where you got care. Include the full name, address, phone number, and secure fax or secure email address.

Date of Services

When did you receive this care? This can be 1 day or a range of dates or years. If you’re not sure, ask the provider you received care from what dates you need.

Information to be Released

What information do you need? This is to guide your provider in pulling the records you need. Often, it will be a set of check boxes. Check all that apply. [For more information, see What am I asking for?]

Recieving Party or Destination of Records

Where do you want to send the information? Enter the complete name of the person, place, or company, along with their address, telephone number, and fax number or secure email (through their patient portal). Note: If you need to send your records to more than 1 person, including yourself, a separate request may be required. Ask your provider what they need.

Purpose of Release

Why do you need this information? Often, the form will offer a set of check boxes, like ongoing care or new doctor. You can check all that apply, but according to HIPAA, you don’t have to provide this information in order to get your health record. So you can leave this section blank.

Expiration Date or Duration of Consent

How long do you want this permission to share your records to be valid? Not all forms will include this section. However, if you don’t specify a date, most permissions will end 6 months to 1 year from the date you filled out the form. Note: According to HIPAA, you don’t have to provide this information in order to get your health record, and you can leave this section blank.

Release Instructions

How and when do you want to have this information? This tells your provider if you’d like your records by a certain date and what kind of record you want — like paper or a PDF. Although you may ask to get your health records sooner, your provider can take up to 30 days to deliver your health record. [For more information, see What format do I need?]

Signature of Patient or Personal Representative

You must sign the form, or your provider will not be able to process your request.

Date

Enter the date for the day you sign the authorization form.

Relationship to Patient

If you’re not the patient, how are you related to the patient? If you’re getting the records of another adult, this is where you’ll tell the provider that you’re the other adult’s personal representative.

Legal Authority

If you’re requesting health records for someone other than your child, you may be required to provide a copy of the legal paperwork giving you the right to access their health information — if their health care provider does not already have it.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIP

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:

  1. Making a paper copy or electronic media copy — like a CD or USB (thumb) drive — of your health record
  2. 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.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIP

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?

Process:

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.

Submit Medical Bill