New Rule Makes It Easier for You to Access Your Own Medical Records
You would think that it should be simple enough to get a copy of your own medical records, but many doctors and hospitals make it very difficult for patients to do so. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a new rule that will make it easier for patients to obtain copies of their medical records in a timely manner. Obviously, having access to your medical records gives you more control over your healthcare, but those records are also key evidence for medical malpractice and personal injury victims.
Some of the ways in which the new guidance should make it easier for patients include:
- Doctors and hospitals are not allowed to ask you why you want your records. If you happen to volunteer your reason for requesting your records, they cannot deny you access to your records based on your reason for wanting them.
- Your doctor or hospital cannot require you to go to the office of facility in person if you request that they mail your records to you.
- Nor can they require you to use a web portal to request access to your records, because there are still people who do not have internet access.
- They must provide your records within 30 days. That’s calendar days, not business days. Under certain circumstances, that time limit can be extended by up to 30 days, but you must be notified of the extension within the first 30-day time period.
- You can be charged a fee for the cost of making paper or electronic copies and postage, but not fees for searching for your records, storage, or retrieval. This applies even if your state laws allow the extra charges.
Why It Matters
There are many reasons why patients need and should have access to their medical records. HHS says, “Providing individuals with easy access to their health information empowers them to be more in control of decisions regarding their health and well-being.” It’s true, and that alone is reason enough to give patients timely, no-questions-asked access to their records, but it is not the only reason that these new changes could be important to you.
If you have been injured in an accident, you will need your medical records as evidence in your case. They serve many purposes in a lawsuit when determining damages, including proof that your injuries were caused by your accident, not a pre-existing condition.
In a medical malpractice case you also need your medical records, and you do not want to have to tell the doctor or hospital that you are requesting your records to be used as evidence against them.
Overall, this is a win for all patients.
If you were harmed by medical malpractice or if you have lost someone as a result of medical negligence, you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a lawyer near you.