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Access to patient medical records is guaranteed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Under this legislation, you may request a copy of your personal medical records, including diagnostic images, at anytime from your healthcare provider and it must be provided within 30 days. Healthcare providers may charge “reasonable fees” for medical records retrieval. Obtaining a medical record is as simple as making a written request to your doctor in the form of a medical records request.

While the process of requesting your medical records appears relatively straightforward, for those with complex healthcare histories who have been treated by multiple healthcare providers, it might be preferred to use third party service providers for medical records retrieval. These services require that you sign a release form allowing them to process your medical records, and then gather all of your healthcare records for you and make them accessible online or by mailing you paper copies or a CD containing images of your records. There are typically fees for each healthcare provider contacted, as well as for copies of paper reports and for diagnostic images. These medical records retrieval fees are in addition to the reasonable fees that each healthcare provider may charge for copies of medical records.

Often, a healthcare provider will use outside third party service providers to respond to patient or other requests for medical records in order to save time. Medical records retrieval companies typically process and verify the request forms, and then perform copying on site of the healthcare provider in a manner that complies with HIPAA.

There are also may be situations where you want to access another person’s medical records for insurance or legal purposes, such as in the case of reviewing benefits coverage and payments, in a lawsuit, or during the settlement of the estate of a deceased person. While you can do so yourself if you obtain properly executed legal forms and comply with all regulations and laws, many find it easier to use a specialty medical records retrieval service.

In addition to insurance companies (which also utilize The Medical Information Bureau to access medical records information), medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, regulatory agencies like the US Food & Drug Administration (5FDA), self-insured employers (5those that underwrite their own health insurance), and law firms may retrieve third party medical records, and typically use third party service providers to do this, as well.