How can I get my records from former doctors?

Question

I used to go to a doctor in another state. Then I moved and went to another doctor. I signed a release for the new doctor to obtain records from the first one.

Later on, I had to go to yet another doctor, who asked me for all pertinent past records. To get the ball in motion, I sent a certified letter to the second doctor and asked for the records she had obtained from the out-of-state doctor.

She sent a certified letter back saying that she was prohibited by law from giving me these records and that I had to go directly to the out-of-state doctor to obtain them. I do not want her to keep these records, and I need them for my new physician.

Is it true that the law forbids her from turning my own medical records over to me or a new doctor of my choice?

Answer

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you have the right to access your medical records, get copies of them, and amend (correct) them. Sometimes state laws dictate the exact process to request records and how much you'll have to pay to get them. (To get basic information about HIPAA, see What is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?)

So, legally, you have a right to a copy of your medical records. But it is also true that you will have to go back to the original doctor that you saw for many types of medical records. Your new doctor should have no problem getting records from both of the old doctors with nothing more than your signed consent form. But generally all evaluations and test results must come from the original source, and you, the former patient, must ask for them directly. Another person can procure those records for you only if you have given him or her a medical power of attorney.

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