As recently reported by the New York Times (1/16/16), new HIPAA guidelines are helping tear down barriers that have made it difficult for patients to get access to their own medical records. Under the new guidelines issued this month, doctors and hospitals cannot:
- Require patients to state a reason for requesting their records;
- Deny access out of a general concern that patients might be upset by the information;
- Require patients to pick up their records in person if they ask that the records be sent by mail or email;
- Require patients to use a web portal for requesting access;
- Require patients to mail an access request;
- Deny a request for access to health information because a patient has failed to pay medical bills; or
- Charge for the cost of searching for data and retrieving records, (although a doctor or a hospital may charge a fee to cover the cost of copying).
Although patients have had a longstanding right to their medical records, the reality is that many patients often face unreasonable delay and hurdles. Access to medical records is critical in allowing patients to understand their care, follow treatment plans, obtain a second opinion, correct errors in the records, and have more control over their healthcare decisions. As stated in the introduction to the guidelines:
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.
State laws that also provide individuals with rights of access to their medical records may apply as well.
If you are being denied a copy of your medical records, feel free to contact Attorney Pamela A. Borgess of Borgess Law, LLC at (567) 455-5955 or toll-free at (844) LAW-9144. You can also contact Borgess Law, LLC by submitting an online inquiry at www.BorgessLaw.com or emailing Attorney Borgess directly at pborgess@BorgessLaw.com. Borgess Law, LLC never charges a fee for an initial consultation.