The details of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can be quite complex, but, basically, HIPAA protects your privacy regarding access to medical records. HIPAA prevents people who are not you, your legal Power of Attorney, or legal guardian from getting their hands on your private medical information. Unfortunately, many people do not understand their own rights when it comes to acquiring their medical records.
If you’re involved in some type of personal injury claim, your medical records detailing your injuries will be the most crucial part of your case, and without timely acquisition of your medical records, your personal injury attorney will be unable to fight your case. It’s important that you know some of the basic facts regarding HIPAA and acquiring your medical records when and if that time comes.
How Does One Get Medical Records?
Twenty years ago, it was a lot easier to get your medical records. Many people had one doctor they saw for years, and all you had to do was make a phone call or drop by the doctor’s office, sign a consent form, and wait for your medical chart to be printed out for you take home.
Those days are long gone.
Now, as most of us have experienced, you have to contact a medical records specialist from the physician’s practice, place an order to have your medical records faxed or emailed to you, make a payment for this service, and hope you get your chart in a timely manner.
Most states require medical offices to honor records requests within 30 days of receipt of the request; other states expect medical offices to turn these requests around in just a few days. If you are ordering your own medical record, you will have to sign some sort of consent form, prove who you are with a valid identification card, pay the charge designated by your physician’s office, and then wait for the medical records to come to you.
If you are a designated representative, you may access a loved one’s medical records via the same or a similar process. Legal guardians and powers of attorney are two examples of “designated representatives,” and the medical office must have documentation that the person seeking the medical record is, indeed, a valid designated representative.
Parents may acquire their minor children’s medical information with some exceptions. A parent is not considered a designated representative when:
- The minor has consented to medical care and parental consent is not required under state law
- A child receives medical care at the direction of a court
- A parent agrees that the minor and the medical provider have a confidential relationship
If you are trying to access the medical records for a deceased individual, say for a wrongful death case, you may acquire those records legally if you have been named a “personal representative of an estate — either designated by a will or appointed by a court” to settle the deceased individual’s affairs.
According to HIPAA, some medical records can be withheld from you and legal designated representatives:
- Notes from psychotherapy
- Information compiled for lawsuits
- Medical information the healthcare provider feels could reasonably endanger a patient’s life, his physical safety, or the safety of another person
If you are looking for a personal injury attorney in Southern California, please contact the attorneys at Sheridan & Rund, PC to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Please bring your medical records to your meeting if you already have them.