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Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...

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Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

3 Ways to Request Copies of your Medical Records

How to Request Medical Records

Request Medical Records

by Patti J. Ryan, Updated March 2016

Before meeting with any electrophysiologist or surgeon, you will want to send each a packet with your medical records, test results and any images/X-rays. (You should be collecting this information all along in a three-ring binder or file folder.) So, how do you gather copies of medical records you’re missing?

Your Right to Your Medical Records

To begin, you may ask, “Do I have a legal right to my medical records?” Yes.

Be aware that while your medical information or data belongs to you (the patient), the physical pieces of paper, X-ray film, etc. belong to the hospital or health care provider.
Patients have the legal right to access both paper and electronic records, to view the originals and to obtain copies of their medical records.

This right is guaranteed in the U.S. by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 [HIPAA]. If you live outside the US, know that over 89 countries have adopted Data Privacy Laws. For example, Canada has the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and in Europe there’s the EU Data Protection Reform.

Keep your medical records in a binder or folder.

Keep file copies of your medical records

Do an Inventory of Your Medical Records

You want to compile a list of the offices you need to contact. (You may already have many of these records in your A-Fib binder/folder and just need to identify those you are missing.)

Begin with a list of all the doctors, emergency rooms, labs, specialists and other health care providers and facilities who have provided you with medical services related to your A-Fib.

Request your prescription records, as well, from pharmacies and health plans. (You may already have online access to this information, depending on your service provider.)

Also, request records of any major medical event from the past two years (i.e., surgeries, medical emergencies, allergic reactions, etc.)

Review Your Records for Accuracy

Before requesting copies, you have the right to review your health records (not just ask for copies).

Your doctor’s medical records staff can help guide you to find the information you are interested in reading. Look over your records to make sure they are correct. Ask questions. If you spot any errors, ask to have them corrected before they are shared with another doctor or hospital.

Make Medical Record-Keeping a Habit: Don’t leave your doctor’s office or medical canter without a copy of every test they performed (if the test result isn’t immediately available, have them mail it to you). Store in a three-ring binder or file folder.

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Three Ways to Request Your Records

1. You’ll find the instructions for requesting records for each provider in their ‘Notice of Privacy Practices’—you signed and received a copy of this notice on your first visit. (It’s also posted at the facility where patients may see it.) It should provide instructions for requesting records as well as contact information for asking questions or filing complaints. Follow the instructions to request your records.

2. Or, if visiting the medical office, ask for an ‘Authorization for Release of Health Information’ form. You can complete and submit the authorization form in person or take it home. Many medical practices post the ‘Authorization for Release of Health Information’ form on their website for download.

3. You can also write your own ‘Request Your Medical Records’ letter (see sample below). The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse offers a sample letter template to help you compose your own letter asking for your medical records. (See sample letter below at end of this article.) Fax or mail your request letter.

Plan ahead: It may take some time for your request to be processed. It’s a good idea to ask when you can expect to receive the information and an estimate of the reproduction cost.

Will You be Charged for Copies?

For hard copies expect to pay duplication costs. HIPAA allows doctors/practices to charge a “reasonable, cost-based fee.”  They can charge for supplies, staff time for copying and processing, and mailing costs, if applicable.

For no cost copies, ask if they will copy electronic files to your USB Flash drive or to a disc/CD you supply.

However, they may not charge for the time a staff member spends searching for the record.  In addition, they should not adopt a policy of charging a flat fee or charging a patient to view a record.

Note: U.S. state laws may limit the amount the doctors/practices charge for duplicating records.

You’ll Need Multiple Copies

You may receive paper copies, x-ray film and/or electronic records (on CDs or USB flash drive). You can ask for multiple copies or make your own. (For duplication services, check office supply retailers like Office Depot or Staples.)

If you expect to interview three to five doctors, have a packet made for each doctor (better to have an extra packet rather than too few).

Take your A-Fib binder to your appointments.

As a backup, take your A-Fib binder to your appts.

File Originals and Backup Digital Records

Store your originals in your binder or file folder. Store CDs in binder sleeves or copy to your PC. Make backup copies of any digital records.

Day of Your Appointment

When you arrive at the EP’s office, make sure they have indeed received your up-to-date medical records. As a back-up, bring your own three-ring binder with the originals.

Don’t Forget: take along a pen and your ‘office visit notebook‘.

Sample Letter Format and Template to Request Your Medical Records

Download this sample letter as PDF file (then save to your hard drive).

[Your name]
[Your address]
[Name of care provider or facility]

RE: [Your medical identification number or other identifier used]

Dear [Name of care provider or facility]

The purpose of this letter is to request copies of my medical records as allowed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Department of Health and Human Services regulations.

I was treated in your office [at your facility] between [fill in dates]. I request copies of the following [or all] health records related to my treatment.

[Identify records requested, e.g. medical history form you provided; physician and nurses’ notes; test results, consultations with specialists; referrals.]

[Note: HIPAA also allows you to request a summary of your medical records. If you prefer a summary, you should agree to a fee beforehand.]

I understand you may charge a reasonable fee for copying the records, but will not charge for time spent locating the records. Please mail the requested records to me at the above address. [If you request that the records be mailed, you may also be charged for postage.]

I look forward to receiving the above records within 30 days as specified under HIPAA. If my request cannot be honored within 30 days, please inform me of this by letter as well as the date I might expect to receive my records.

[Your signature]
[Your name printed]

Never see a doctor alone - 350 wide at 300 res

References for this article
• Greenleaf, G. Global Data Privacy Laws: 89 Countries, and Accelerating (February 6, 2012). Privacy Laws & Business International Report, Issue 115, Special Supplement, February 2012; Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 98/2012. Available at SSRN:

• Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. (PIPEDA or the PIPED Act). URL:

• Protection of personal data. European Commission’s Directorate General for Justice and Consumers. URL:

• Reproduced with permission from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Fact Sheet 8. Last accessed October 17, 2014, URL:

• Under HIPAA you can be charged a treasonable fee for copying records. You may also be charged for postage if you ask that records be mailed to you. HIPAA allows 30 days for a provider to respond to your request for records, with one 30-day extension for good reason.

• Your state laws may include a lower fee for copies of records or a shorter time for the provider to respond to your request.

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Last updated: Thursday, April 4, 2019

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