Your Rights Under HIPAA
When you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, the accuracy of your medical records takes on an added importance. Chances are you have seen or will see more than one doctor before you finally receive a diagnosis and find an effective treatment plan. When you visit a new doctor or are referred to a specialist, they need a copy of your previous medical records to prevent duplication of tests or potentially dangerous medication interactions. And, should you ever need to file for disability, your medical records are crucial and can be the determining factor in whether or not your claim is approved.
What Are Your Rights?In 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed. Although from the name you would think it just deals with health insurance, this long, rather complicated law also addresses issues of privacy and rights to medical records. Tucked deep within the act, your individual right to your medical records is detailed:
- You have the right to see your chart or medical records in your doctors office.
- You have the right to a physical copy of your medical records.
- You may be charged a reasonable cost-based fee for copying your records and postage if you request them to be mailed.
- In most cases, the copy must be provided within 30 days. That time can be extended for another 30 days but you must be given a written statement explaining the reason for the delay and the date by which your records will be provided.
- Under certain circumstances, there is some health information that your doctor may not be required to give you. If you are denied access to any part of your medical records, you must receive a written explanation of the basis for the denial and your rights to have the decision reviewed.
- You have the right to request that any errors in your medical records be corrected or missing information added. If your doctor does not agree with your requested changes, you have the right to have your disagreement noted in your records.
- Most doctors will send your records to a new doctor with no charge as a professional courtesy.
- When your doctor tells you the results of your lab work, ask for a copy of the report while youre in the office. Often theyre happy to give you a copy at no cost.
- If someone on your doctors staff tells you theyre not allowed to give you a copy of your records, usually politely asking them to review the HIPAA regulations will do the trick. (Give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe theyre new and dont know the law.)
- If you find what you feel is an error in your records, only you can decide if it is a serious enough error to be worth insisting on a correction or addition.
Ultimately, whether or not you want a copy of all of your medical records is completely up to you. Whatever your decision, at least you know your rights.
For more information on HIPAA, including health insurance and privacy issues, visit the HIPAA web site .