Access to patients’ medical records under HIPAA

According to federal law, the patients have the right to have a copy of most of their medical records including doctors’ notes, medical test results, lab reports and billing information. HIPAA also states that the patients as well as the parents and guardians of them can seek these records. Caregivers may be able to access records if the patient has provided written permission to the provider.

Healthcare providers are required to keep most adult medical records for six years or more. However, the period varies by the state where the records are stored. In most states, children’s records must be kept for three to 10 years beyond age 18 or 21.

Providers are required to share any notes or records they have created themselves, or any test results for which they have copies. They are also required to share any information provided to them about you by another doctor if that information was used for the diagnosis and/or treatment being discussed with you.

Diagnostic lab test records, for such tests as blood tests, CT scans, x-rays, mammograms or others, should be requested from the doctor who ordered them, or your primary care physician. In most states, the lab will not provide them to you directly.

If you seek hospital records or records from any other medical facility, you’ll want to request them directly from that facility.

However, access to some records may be denied, usually related to mental health records. If a provider believes that letting you look at your medical records can endanger your physical health, your request may be refused. However, this denial cannot be just on the basis that it could upset you, unless they believe that upset will lead to an attempt to physically harm yourself. If you are refused, the provider must make that clear, in writing.