Guide To Requesting Your Medical Records

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How to request your Medical Records for free?

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you or your designated patient advocate has the right to obtain copies of your medical records. Patients have the right to access medical records, get copies, and make corrections. Keeping medical record copies of your health care records can help patients stay on top of their health.

What are the benefits of personal health records?

Benefits of getting your Medical Records:

Whether you have either an offline health app or direct online access to your health records, it enables you to keep track of your healthcare. Your health record keeps you up to date with your current health. Mainly there are three important personal health benefits of getting your medical records:

  • It saves you time. When you have the history of all the tests already performed, your health care provider can avoid performing the same tests again. This will save you time as well as money.
  • It keeps you prepared for medical emergencies. During such emergencies, your medical records come in handy to review and decide on the best possible patient care from your healthcare provider.
  • It helps you make better health care decisions. You will feel empowered knowing all your health information and medication list. You can also check for any errors and can get them corrected. This is especially useful when understanding health care bills and health care costs.

What to ask for in your Medical Records?

A medical record can have a lot of information. Knowing what information you need can help you to narrow down your search. If you don’t know which documents you need, then take professional help to get the proper materials. You can limit your request for medical records to a specific time period of time if you want. You can also ask for papers of a particular condition or specialist, but you may run the risk of missing vital information.

Who has your Medical Records?

In general, any healthcare provider you have seen keeps medical records about you and provides access or a copy when requested. There is no federal law specifying how long a doctor needs to keep a patient’s medical history. But instead, every state has its own holding period, which ranges between 7 to 10 years.

If you have moved or have changed health care or insurance providers, it’s a good idea to request your medical records. Contact your healthcare provider to see if the medical records you want are available. Your medical records can be accessed through doctors, hospitals, labs, or other medical establishments you visited. You may get access to your medical records through a patient portal, which is an electronic health record, but it only has few summary notes.

How long does it take to obtain your Medical Records?

Under HIPAA, a physician has 30 days to provide the patient or the patient’s legal representative with a copy of the requested medical records; however, if the medical records are not maintained or are not accessible on-site, then a physician has 60 days to provide the records.

If you have made written medical records requests and have received no response, then call your healthcare provider’s office. If they confirm receiving your request but haven’t done anything, then see the provider’s “Notice of Privacy Practices.” It should include the contact information for a privacy official who can help.

Healthcare providers have 30 days to gather and provide copies of your medical records, so make sure you’ve allowed enough time. If you feel your rights to access your health information in a timely fashion have been violated and may merit legal action, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; just make sure to file the complaint within 180 days. The COVID-19 pandemic has made wait times longer, expect additional business days.

How much does it cost to obtain Medical Records?

While doctors can’t charge any fee for providing your medical records, they can charge a reasonable amount for copying and printing your documents. If you have a long or complicated medical history, the fees can add up.

Who can request your Medical Records?

HIPAA regulations are designed to protect your privacy, and sometimes, because of this, you may find it challenging to obtain medical record access.

According to HIPAA, you can request your medical records if

  • You are the patient or the patient’s parent or guardian
  • You are the caregiver having written permission from the patient

Other groups can sometimes access your Health Records

  • Employers, life insurers, and some school districts can view some records.
  • Government agencies, such as Medicare or the Social Security Administration, may have the authorization to examine your health records to establish eligibility for certain programs.
  • Your electronic patient records can be released if ordered by a court or by health agencies or law enforcement agencies with a valid subpoena or legal order, and may be required in certain situations. In most states, medical records showing treatment for gunshot wounds, medical treatment related to sexual attacks, and cases where domestic violence is suspected must be submitted to the proper authorities.
  • Your healthcare providers may also release medical records without your written authorization in the following circumstances, among others: to insurance companies for purposes of processing health insurance company coverage; to professional medical societies and research organizations who are reviewing health care providers or doing medical research; to employers if they are evaluating workers compensation claims.

Can you request records for someone else?

Requesting another person’s medical records has its own requirements. The correct authorization form must be filled out, and the requestor must have the proper legal documents to show the medical records department.

What information should be included in a patient’s medical records?

 Patients, in their medical records, can be provided the following health info:

  • The initial health history and physical examination from the doctor
  • Consultation reports from specialists, as well as any notes
  • Operative reports / Medical procedure reports
  • Test results, especially those used to track chronic conditions or showing meaningful test results such as radiology images (x-rays), biopsies, lab reports, and blood tests
  • Current list of medications and allergies to medications
  • Discharge summary if you were hospitalized

What types of records are not able to be accessed by the patient?

Does a patient have the right to access every single thing in their medical records? Not necessarily, records that may get denied:

  • Psychotherapy notes or mental health records
  • Information that could endanger the physical safety of the patient or another person
  • Information compiled for use in a lawsuit
  • Information that is part of a research project while it is still in progress
  • If your request for information would reveal the identity of a source that was promised confidentiality

What to do if your Medical Record request is denied?

Certain medical information such as HIV/STD records may require further authorization in addition to your initial request. If your healthcare provider denies your medical records request, they have to document that denial and the reason for it. You have the right to review and appeal that denial. During such an appeal to your original request, a healthcare professional who was not involved in the initial denial decision will review the decision and determine whether or not to grant you access.

What to do if you have trouble obtaining your Medical Records?

Most healthcare providers are aware of the federal law HIPAA. But still, if you encounter any issue with healthcare administrators, refer them to this federal document, which may help.

How do I get old Medical Records from a retired doctor?

If the doctor leaves a practice that is still operating, the records will remain with the practice. If another doctor bought the practice, the new practice would maintain the records.

Sometimes, patients may need records from a doctor no longer in practice. Under the law, the doctor must transfer their records to another provider.

How to fix mistakes on your Medical Records?

If there are errors in your patient record, you can write a letter to the healthcare administrator outlining those errors and the needed corrections. Mention your name, date, social security number, and other vital information, then staple a copy of the page that contains an error. The provider must respond and act on your request within 60 days.

Special Instructions for Veterans’ Medical and Health Records

Various military and government agencies hold veteran and military records. Each branch has some additional policies concerning these records. It may seem complicated as military medical records are treated differently, whether they are related to outpatient medical services or treatment requiring a hospital stay. So, you need to check-in at least two places for complete military medical records history.

Since 1960, hospital inpatient records only have been maintained in the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). NPRC has kept these records in bulk retired each year by the creating hospital, rather than with each personnel file. Therefore, most of these hospital inpatient records are filed by the hospital where the service member was treated. As such, the NPRC needs the name of the hospital, month (if known), and year of treatment, as well as the veteran’s name and Social Security or service number, to locate these clinical records.


Having your medical record is as essential as taking the proper treatment for your health condition. Always review your health record and make needed corrections. By actively participating in your medical record review, you can be well informed and up to date about your health condition.