How to Get Copies of Your Records & Tests
Keeping copies of your health records and tests can improve communications and coordination between hospitals, doctors, nurses and patients. It allows you to be a better partner with your doctors and helps you manage your own health.
You should request a copy of your health records from all your healthcare providers, including your general practitioner, plus your eye doctor, dentist, and any other specialist you have seen and include them in your Personal Health Record. Ask if your records are in an electronic format that you can access or if you need to request copies. Also, ask your doctor or a member of the office staff to help you determine which parts of your record you need.
All hospitals, and most doctors' offices, have a release form to authorize the release of information. In most cases you can request the medical information directly from the doctor's office or medical records department at a hospital. Most facilities charge for copies. The fee can only include the cost of copying (including supplies and labor), as well as postage if you request the copy to be mailed. It can take up to 60 days to receive your medical records, so ask when you can expect to receive the information you requested. Keep in mind that offices may only keep records for a certain amount of time as required by state law. You should call the office to be sure your records still exist. In many cases you can simply send a letter that includes the relevant information rather than using a specific form.
This letter will need to include:
- Your birth date.
- Your full name (including any information about name changes).
- Time frame when you were seen (for example July 1998 to September 2000).
- The specific types of information you want sent (such as reports from a brain scan, your cholesterol levels, etc.).
You can have your records sent to yourself to share with a healthcare professional, or directly to a health professional. If you do have the records sent to a health professional, let them know to expect the files.
It is best to get in the routine of asking for copies of tests as they are done. Some testing facilities will send copies of the results directly to the patient if it is noted on the doctor's test orders.
Did you know?
If your physician has moved, retired, or died, his or her estate has an obligation to retain your record for a period defined by federal and state law. You may be able to locate your records by contacting:
- Your physician's partners
- The health information manager at a nearby hospital where the physician practiced
- The local medical society
- The state medical association
- The state department of health
More on getting copies of your records & tests on the web:
Information about obtaining medical records in New York State. (from the New York State Department of Health)
How accuracy, understanding and even health outcomes can dramatically improve when patients simply review their medical records. (Readers Digest article By Meana Wen, MD from NPR)
Learn how to get a hold of your medical records. (from Trisha Torrey)