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Access to Medical Records

Have you attempted to request your medical records, but your doctor required you to give a reason? Were you denied access to your medical records by a hospital or other facility, but you believe that you were denied for reasons that are not legitimate? According to a recent article in The New York Times, the Obama administration has issued new guidelines concerning patient access to medical records. In short, it should be easier for patients to access their medical records and to be able to make important decisions about health care.

Breaking Down Barriers for Patient Access to Medical Histories

In general, it is not always easy to get your medical records. Physicians’ offices and hospitals often require patients to provide reasons for wanting this information, and sometimes the requests are denied due to concerns about how patients will respond to the information contained in their files. The new guidelines issued by the Obama administration emphasize that, in most cases, doctors and hospitals need to provide patients with copies of their medical records “within 30 days of receiving a request.”

The new guidance is supposed to break down barriers that currently prevent patients from accessing their medical histories.Theoretically, patients have long been able to obtain medical records. Indeed, the right to have copies of one’s documented medical history has been around for quite awhile. But the process of requesting these records (and getting approved for them) has been more complicated than it should be. For instance, according to the article, “federal officials say they receive large numbers of complaints from consumers frustrated in trying to exercise that right.”

What, specifically, do the new guidelines require? Here are the key points:

  • Healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities cannot require patients to provide a reason for requesting medical records in order for that request to be approved;
  • Patients cannot be required to pick up their records in person if they request them to be emailed or mailed;
  • Patients can have access to their medical records even if they have not paid an outstanding medical bill;
  • Health professionals and healthcare facilities cannot deny a patient access to her medical records “out of a general concern that [she] might be upset by the information,” according to The New York Times; and
  • Health professionals and healthcare facilities cannot charge a fee for the costs associated with gathering or retrieving data, but they can charge for the cost of copying.

Reasons for New Medical Record Guidelines

Why is it so important for patients to have easy access to their medical records? In short, understanding the details of your health history can enable you to consider your options for care or treatment, and it can also allow you to better understand decisions made by your doctors. In particular, patients with chronic issues or genetic disorders may want to seek alternate care options, but that can be difficult to do if you cannot provide all of the information to another physician or healthcare professional.

If you have questions about your rights as a patient, an experienced Philadelphia medical negligence attorney can assist you. Contact Cohen, Placitella, & Roth, PC today.

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Cohen, Placitella & Roth, PC (215) 567-3500

2001 Market Street, Suite 2900 Philadelphia, PA 19103

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