Your medical records are important, especially when you have asthma and allergies. They are the history of all the medical care you have received and can help your doctors more accurately create a plan of treatment for you.
But getting copies of your medical records may be a challenge. Whether you need them for your new doctor, a job, or just for your personal files, you should be able to access your records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives you the right to your records. Below are some frequently asked questions about how to find your medical records.
How Do I Find My Medical Records?
Start with your primary care physician (PCP). A PCP is usually a doctor who practices general or family medicine. You most often see them for routine checkups, mild illnesses, or non-emergency care. They see you the most and should have the most complete version of your records.
If you see a specialist, such as an allergist or pulmonologist, they will usually send copies of your records to your PCP, if you noted them on your medical forms. If not, contact your specialist’s office for copies too.
Many doctors are moving patient records to online portals. You can ask your doctor’s office if they have an online patient portal. If so, they should be able to give you instructions on how to access it.
What If I Can’t Get in Touch With My Doctor’s Office?
Call the hospital where your doctor has worked. If they have seen you at the hospital, there will be records there. It may not be all your records, but anything done in that facility will be there.
My Doctor Is No Longer Practicing Medicine. What Do I Do Now?
Doctors and other medical providers are required to keep your medical records available for at least seven years after your last visit. If your doctor is not practicing, they will have put your records in secure storage and should be able to get them to you upon request. This is the case whether your doctor has retired, died, or is on a leave.
What If I Don’t Have (or Never Had) a PCP?
You will need to collect your records bit by bit from the various places you have been, like your local hospital, urgent care facility, or free clinic. Call each of the places you have been for care and ask to speak with the records department. If you received treatment at that location, they would have record of you. No one place will have all of your records if you do not have a PCP.
What If the Records I Need Are From a Hospital That Has Permanently Closed?
Many hospitals work as a group (or system) with other hospitals. Often, hospitals in the same system will have similar names. For example, Downtown Hospital might be connected to City Hospital. If Downtown Hospital closes, they will keep your records at City Hospital. You can do an internet search or call the local hospitals that are currently still open to ask them if your records were transferred to the new location.
What If I Need to Pick Up My Records, But Can’t Go Myself? Can Someone Else Get My Records for Me?
You will not be able to get the records without legal proof that you have the authority to do so. To get your own records, you will need documentation – such as a picture identification card, date of birth, and/or Social Security Number – to prove you are you. Someone else can only do this for you with additional legal documentation (often a power of attorney from a lawyer’s office).
Is There Anyone Else Who Can Help Me Get My Records?
Yes, your health insurance company may be able to help you. They will have contact information for your doctor, even if that doctor is no longer practicing. They should be able to give you that contact information. Just call the customer service number on the back of your insurance card.
I’ve Tried Calling My Doctor, the Hospital, and My Insurance Company. Is There Anyone Else?
Yes. You can also try calling your state medical association or society. Your doctor is likely to be affiliated with this organization. They may be able to give you direct contact information or guide you to the right place.
What If None of These Things Are Working?
Try, try, and try again. You would be surprised how often simply talking to a different person in the office gets you a different result. Call back or visit the next day or next week and see if you get a different person. They might be more willing to be flexible and help speed up the process.
How Do I Get Medical Records for My Relative?
If the relative is still alive, you will need them to give you power of attorney. Each state has slightly different requirements for this process. It is best to hire a lawyer to create the form to ensure it is correct. You can also find a blank form at an office supply store or online. Make sure it is appropriate for your state. Once it is filled out, you will need to sign it, have the relative sign it, and get it notarized.
If the records you need are for one of your children under age 18, you should be able to get the records any time if you have documentation proving you are their parent.
If the relative you want the records for has died, you will need to get legal proof you are authorized to get those records. A power of attorney is only valid while the relative is alive. If the person who passed had a will, the executor of that will is also the personal representative. The executor then can legally have access to your relative’s medical records.
If you are not the executor, you may need to go to the probate court (or surrogate’s court in New York and New Jersey) handling your relative’s estate. If you can prove your relationship to the deceased, you may be able to get documentation which will allow you to get the records you need. You may also want to talk with a family law attorney.