Medical records are a crucial piece of evidence in every personal injury lawsuit, as they provide the verified information that backs up your claim for damages. However, accessing medical records isn’t always easy, and they can be somewhat difficult to obtain.
But did you know that under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), every American has the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of their medical records? Furthermore, in addition to HIPAA, which is a federal law, California law also protects a patient’s right to see their medical records.
This blog post explains some of the steps you can take to obtain your medical records in California.
One of the most important aspects of health privacy laws is the idea that a patient’s medical records are only viewable by the patient herself, or an appointed representative, such as a power of attorney. For that reason, medical records are one type of evidence in a personal injury lawsuit that your attorney is not able to obtain without your assistance.
If a doctor does not comply with the law in releasing your medical records to you, your attorney can then assist you in filing a complaint with the California Medical Board, but your attorney cannot request your records on your behalf.
While your doctor’s office may honor a request for medical records made over the phone, California law requires a written request to the doctor, detailing which specific records you’re requesting. Your attorney can assist you in writing this letter if you have one, and the law also provides that a doctor may charge a fee for compiling the medical records up to 25 cents per page, along with reasonable clerical costs. If you have an attorney, these costs may be covered by your litigation team.
After the doctor receives your request, the doctor must provide you with a copy of your medical records within 15 days. Additionally, you’ll need to make separate requests to each of your doctors, unless they’re all within the same hospital system.
Many larger healthcare providers have begun to adopt online electronic health record systems which sync patient records across individual providers, and in turn are accessible online. One popular system is Epic Systems’ myChart, used by hospitals across the country, but look for anything your doctor’s office refers to as a “patient portal” or “patient log in” on their webpage. Sometimes, medical records are available on these patient portals for free, and with instant access, thus avoiding the written request process detailed above.
All in all, because medical records are such important pieces of evidence in a personal injury case, it is essential that you are diligent in obtaining them from your doctors.