When you are involved in any type of accident, you may need access to your medical records in order to file a claim against the person who caused your injuries. However, if you are not familiar with the process of obtaining your medical records or your rights in this regard, you may have trouble collecting the necessary information for your claim. It is a good idea to educate yourself about your rights under the law prior to the need to acquire your medical records for the purposes of a lawsuit.
What Are My Rights Regarding Acquisition of Medical Records?
The federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, gives patients the right to receive a copy of their medical records from anyone who has provided them with any type of medical treatment. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but for the most part patients have the right to receive a copy of their records in a timely manner.
HIPAA allows an individual to request his or her own medical records as well as the records of anyone for whom that person is a designated representative. Generally, a designated representative is someone who has evidence in writing that gives permission to obtain copies of another person’s medical records. Parents also have the right to obtain their children’s medical records unless the child has received medical care that does not require parental consent in that state, or if the parent agrees that the child and doctor have a confidential medical relationship. In certain cases, a personal representative may also request a copy of the medical records of a deceased person.
However, HIPAA also allows health care providers to deny patients access to certain types of records, including psychotherapy notes, information the provider collects for the purposes of a lawsuit, or information that could reasonably endanger someone’s life or physical safety.
What Is the Process for Requesting Medical Records?
Under HIPAA rules, medical providers in most states must provide copies of any requested records within 30 days of the date of the request. If they are unable to do so, they must explain the delay. Some states have even shorter compliance times for their medical providers.
The patient or designated representative should contact the medical provider for information on where to send a HIPAA request. Some medical providers send these requests to third-party companies who maintain their records. It may speed the process if the patient sends the request directly to the third party.
The patient should make the request in writing and include the name, address, telephone number, date of birth, email address and the number of any medical records if known. Some providers may also ask for a Social Security number or other form of identification.
The patient should also be very specific about which records are being requested, particularly if the patient has a long medical history with a given doctor or healthcare provider. The request should specify whether the patient wants to view the original records, obtain a copy, or both. Finally, the request should be made on an approved form if the provider has one. Patients can ask the provider for a form; many providers now offer them on the Internet as well.
What Can I Do If My Request for Medical Records is Denied?
If a patient’s request for medical records is denied, or if the patient believes that the medical record is incomplete, it may be necessary to contact a personal injury attorney for help. While patients can contact the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services or file a complaint with a state medical board, these options often take a great deal of time. A personal injury attorney may be able to help a patient who is struggling to obtain medical records to support a claim for injuries and damages.