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How to Obtain Your Personal Medical History

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, you have the right to copies of your medical records. Here's how to get them.

Instructions

  • TIP: Check your state laws: some states give providers less time to give you your records.
  • Step 1: If you think any of the information in your personal medical history is incorrect or incomplete, ask the provider, in writing, to fix it. If they do not agree with your assessment, you have the right to submit a statement of disagreement that the provider must add to your record.
  • FACT: 19 percent of patients surveyed said they worry that their medical records contain inaccurate or outdated information.
  • Step 2: If you don't receive your records, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Civil Rights. Under HIPAA, providers have 30 days to send you your records.
  • Step 3: To obtain your personal medical history from a doctor who has moved, retired, or died, contact the records department of a hospital where they practiced. You can also try the local medical society, state medical association, or state department of health. Generally, medical records must be kept for about 10 years from the date of your visit.
  • TIP: A provider cannot deny you a copy of your records because you have not paid for the services you received.
  • Step 4: Know that you can't access notes taken by a mental health professional during conversations with you. A provider can also deny your request if the information could reasonably endanger your life or your or another person's safety.
  • Step 5: To get medical records kept by your health insurance plan, contact the plan's customer service department.
  • Step 6: Contact your doctors' offices, as well as the records departments of any medical facilities where you received treatment. Be aware that they have a right to require your request in writing. If the records can't be sent electronically, the provider may charge you a small fee for copying and postage; ask about this charge in advance.

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