Getting copies of your medical records: rule & resource info from CDT

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) is one of my favorite sources for accurate information on the rules about our rights to access our medical records. Their wizard Deven McGraw is widely recognized as one of the best authorities anywhere on HIPAA – the 1996 law and regulations that established in 2000 that you and I are entitled to copies of our records – even if a provider wrongly says “That’s not our policy.” People who say that are misinformed, sometimes by their own management.

Today a Twitter exchange with SPM member @KatherineKLeon led to Deven (@HealthPrivacy) tweeting these resources:

  • Getting Your Medical Records – CDT’s FAQ page about your rights
    • This is a fabulous resource! Why have I never known about this? Tell friends!
    • “Patients have a legal right to obtain and correct medical records about themselves, but many patients have reported difficulty in doing so. While health information technology can make it easier for patients to access and correct their data, patients still need to know the steps to take to obtain copies of their health records, what to do if a provider or plan refuses a request to obtain or correct a record, and how patients should protect their health records once they have them. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) is releasing this Frequently Asked Questions page as a basic resource to help patients exercise their rights and protect their data.”
  • Lamb Law Office’s Medical Records Copying Charges [URL updated Augut 2016]
    • “This web page lists the various state statutes that control the amount of money doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers can charge a patient for copies of their medical records …”  Concise summary of each state’s rules
    • “Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) a covered entity can only charge “reasonable” cost-based fees for providing the medical records to patients. See 45 CFR 164.524(c). Arguably, fees that are not cost-based, even if permitted by a state statute, may be contrary to the HIPAA regulation and therefore preempted by this federal regulation.
  • Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Record Rights & Privacy
    • “A federal law called the HIPAA Privacy Rule gives you the right to see, get a copy of and amend (correct) your medical record by adding information to it.”
    • The right sidebar lists the states, with articles about each state’s rules, online or downloadable PDF

Update Saturday night: Additions from SPM member Trisha Torrey, from her site:

p.s. A historical note – it’s far less detailed, but in 2010 we posted Teaching HIPAA With a Seinfeld Episode, in which Elaine recruits Kramer to steal a copy of her records. Steal? Yes, it aired in October 1996, just after the HIPAA law was passed, but before the regulations gave us access rights.


Posted in: medical records | policy issues




19 Responses to “Getting copies of your medical records: rule & resource info from CDT”

  1. […] the article here: Getting copies of your medical records: rule & resource info from … This entry was posted in Health Records and tagged access-our, cdt, center, democracy, rights, […]

  2. Thank you Dave and Deven! I am sifting through these links, and see answers to several questions. The cost was in line for Virginia, and the fax vs. copy issue fair. Still think there was a bait and switch, in that when I paid my money, the result was to be a copy that I picked up. Instead, they faxed it to the doctor.

    And THAT circles back to my original belief that record transfers to other docs were free … I haven’t found that answer yet. Certainly a convoluted topic. Bizarre how it varies by state!

  3. […] the article: Getting copies of your medical records: rule & resource info from … This entry is filed under […]

  4. Theresa says:

    My doctor is closing his practice and moving out of state. He will give me the last two. I been going to him for at ten years.The office refuses to give me all my records. What can I do.

    • Theresa, the CDT “Getting your records” link above should contain the answer, but all the links on that page seem to be broken. I tweeted at them – that should get a response.

      Meanwhile – when I got an argument from a provider last year, I found a flyer from the OFfice for Civil Rights and put it in this post on my personal blog: “You can ask to see or get a copy of your medical record & other health information” I called the provider back and said “I’ve learned about my HIPAA rights, and now I know it’s a Federal civil rights violation to not give them to me. Who do I need to speak to?” I got mine in 5 minutes.

      Don’t give up. They’re allowed to charge you for the copies but they’re NOT allowed to not let you have them. In this 2010 case a provider was fine $1.3 million for denying 41 patient requests – that’s an average fine of $31,700 per violation. You should speak calmly to them but let them know you are informed and you intend to take action with the Office for Civil Rights.

      It makes SUCH a lovely image to imagine the headline – a doctor being charged with a civil rights violation on his way out of town…

  5. Dave, hello. I hope this correspondence finds you in good health. My question is, how do i obtain a copy of a report that my Dr. is denying exists? A 4pg. report was sent following an exam by a specialist, i saw all 4 pgs, slightly orange in color, in my file. When i requested a copy,i was given 1pg only! I mentioned this to an assistant who said, ” well there is only one pg….”! There is a deliberate attempt to conceal the full scope of my disease. This has been going on for a yr now. Please advise. I truly need help w/ this. I appreciate anything you can suggest. Please.

    • Hi Marlene – I am no expert in this, and I have no idea what anyone could do if for instance a report was destroyed with no trace. (I have no idea why someone might do that, and I have no idea what actually happened here – I’m in no position to take sides, only to help answer the question.)

      All I can do is tweet a link to your question and hope someone replies here. Best of luck –

  6. Betty Williams says:

    My doctor closed his practice and did not let his patients know.
    I called his office about getting a medication refilled and it was an answering service. They told me his office closed Aug.30. I got an address to request my medical records over a month ago and I have not heard a word from them. I have been going to this Dr. for 18 years. I have an appointment with another Dr. Oct. 30, but I can’t get my records. My case is pretty complicated…..I don’t know what to do.
    His name is Eldon Steve Robinson Family Practice in Lubbock, Texas.

    • e-Patient Dave says:

      Betty, sorry for the delay in releasing this comment.

      Please have a look at the additional resources in this post on my personal site. You may have to be really persistent but if I were you, I’d do exactly that. I don’t know if you need to drive to his house or what. But, that’s up to you.

  7. Dee says:

    My daughter moved to AZ from Virginia and her PCP is requesting records from her psychiatrist and they are saying she has to pay a fee before they will release the records to her doctor. I thought a doctor to doctor transfer was free.

    • Try having your new PCP call and request the records. That may help.

      I’ve heard that some doctors in Virginia are very bad about releasing records but I don’t know first-hand.

  8. Casonya Ritchie says:

    I’m aware that under 45 CFR . . . a provider has 30 days to respond to a patient’s initial request for records and then can extend that to another 30 days, but must give a reason for the delay and provide a date the records will be made available. What’s your recourse if they still don’t provide the records within a 60 day timeframe.

  9. Tom Lamb says:

    We have updated our website and URL for our Medical Records Copying
    Costs page has changed slightly (dropped the .html at end). New URL is:

  10. Bethany Roach says:

    I was just sent a criminal summons today for leaving my eye dr. Office with my record. I took it in front of them because he refused to correct my prescription after his technician verified it was wrong. He is charging me with Petit larceny. How about that. He can steal my insurance payment and hours of my time but I’m the criminal?

  11. Ronald Kidd says:

    I received a hospital record for a client which contained a Medical Administration Summary. It is indexed by medication and is not a chronological record of the medications in the order they were administered. Isn’t such a chronological record required? Is this part of a computer record that could be “resorted” by chronology?

  12. It’s good to know that I have a legal right to access my own personal medical records. It seems like an excellent way to keep track of important information. I can only assume that you would also need to find a way to keep the copies safe and secure as well.

Leave a Reply