Your Legal, Enforceable Right to Your Access Your Health Information – PART I: Why a Patient’s Right to Access is Important

Categories: Patient Rights

When you visit your doctor, you are often asked to sign a “HIPAA” form that the receptionist often explains has to do with protecting privacy.  However, many patients do not realize that the regulations under this important law also gives you, the patient, very important rights with respect to accessing your health information.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), (and similar state laws) not only protect the privacy and security of health information, but with limited exceptions, HIPAA’s Privacy Rule provides you with a legal, enforceable right to see and receive copies of the information in your medical and other health records.  You also have the right to direct your healthcare provider to transmit a copy to a designated person or entity of your choice.  It does not matter if the records are paper or electronic.  It does not matter if your information is onsite or off-site.  It includes medical records, billing and payment records, insurance information, clinical laboratory test results, medical images such as X-rays, wellness and disease management program files, and clinical case notes, among other information used to make decisions about you and your care.

But why would you even want to access your health information? There are many important reasons. First, you may be changing doctors and want your records to immediately bring your new doctor up-to-date on your care without delay.  You may also have questions or concerns about your treatment or treatment of a loved one.   Most importantly, having a copy of your medical records helps you monitor and manage your own healthcare (for example, tracking your blood pressure or weight), spot errors, better understand your diagnosis or prognosis, conduct research online, verify billing charges, and consult with other healthcare professionals. As explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

“Providing individuals with easy access to their health information empowers them to be more in control of decisions regarding their health and well-being.  For example, individuals with access to their health information are better able to monitor chronic conditions, adhere to treatment plans, find and fix errors in their health records, track progress in wellness or disease management programs, and directly contribute their information to research. With the increasing use of and continued advances in health information technology, individuals have ever expanding and innovative opportunities to access their health information electronically, more quickly and easily, in real time and on demand. Putting individuals “in the driver’s seat” with respect to their health also is a key component of health reform and the movement to a more patient-centered health care system.”

This blog series will explore your right to your health information under HIPAA, including how to request this information, how long a healthcare provider has to respond, fees that can be changed, grounds for denial, review of a denial, and requesting corrections to your medical record.  Stay tuned for more information!

Attorney Pamela A. Borgess, the founder of Borgess Law, LLC, is an experienced trial attorney who focuses on civil litigation, including defective medical drugs/devicesdefective consumer products, wrongful death and injurycar and truck accidents, business/contract disputes, and nursing home abuse cases. To speak with Attorney Borgess, call Borgess Law at (567) 455-5955 or toll-free at (844) LAW-9144. You can also contact Borgess Law by submitting an online inquiry. Borgess Law never charges for initial consultations.