Medical Records Information
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How long does my provider have to keep my medical record?

Under Florida law, many health care providers must keep medical records for a minimum period of time. For example, doctors in Florida must keep medical records for at least five (5) years after their last contact with the patient. Public hospitals in Florida must keep their medical records at least seven (7) years after the patient has been discharged. In practice, many health care providers keep their records longer. You have a right to see, get a copy of, and amend your medical record for as long as your health care provider has it.

What happens to my medical records if my health care practitioner retires or quits their practice?

Under Florida law, health care practitioners (such as doctors) must put an advertisement in the local newspaper or send you a letter or other writing that says they are quitting their practice, retiring, or relocating. At this time, they must offer patients the opportunity to obtain a copy of their medical record. Health care practitioners must also tell the appropriate Florida regulatory board who the new records owner is and where the medical records can be found. The new owner of the records must allow you to get and amend your medical records.

What happens to my medical record if my health care practitioner dies?

If your health care practitioner dies, the appropriate Florida regulatory board can appoint someone else as custodian of the medical records held by the practitioner. For example, if your doctor dies the Florida Board of Medicine can appoint someone else as custodian of the medical records held by the doctor. The custodian of the records must allow you to get and amend your medical records.

Summary

You have the right to see your medical record. You also have the right to get a copy of your medical record. These rights are often called the right of access to your medical record. Usually, your health care provider must respond to your request for your record in a timely manner, without delay for legal review. This usually means in less than 30 days. Generally, your provider must give you a copy in the format that you request if they are able to do so. You may have to pay a fee to get a copy of your record.

How do I ask for my medical record?

You should ask your provider about his or her specific procedures for getting your medical record. Often, your health care provider has a form for requesting your medical record. You should use this form if one is available. You should be able to find some information about getting your medical record in your provider’s notice of privacy practices.

Can my provider require me to put my request for my medical record in writing?

Yes. Your provider can require that you put your request in writing (such as by sending a letter, an e-mail, or a fax). Your provider must let you know that he or she has such a requirement.

What information should I include in my request for my medical record?

If your provider does not have a form for requesting your medical record, you should check to see what information your provider requires.

Generally, when you ask for your medical record, your request should include:

  • Your name.
  • Your address.
  • Your telephone number.
  • Your e-mail address.
  • Your date of birth or medical record number.
  • Dates of treatment related to the record.
  • A description of the information that you want to see or copy. This might include:
    • Whether you want the entire record or just part of the record.
    • Medical condition for which you are asking information.
    • Specific test results.
    • Whether you want X-rays or records made by heart monitors or similar medical devices.
    • Whether you want to see your medical record, want a copy of your record, or would like both.

Can my provider ask for my Social Security number on my request for my medical record?

Yes. Because some health care providers use Social Security numbers as a way to identify medical records, they may need your Social Security number to locate your medical record. There is nothing in the HIPAA Privacy Rule or the Social Security Act that prohibits a private provider from engaging in this practice.

Do I have to choose between seeing my medical record and getting a copy of it?

No. You have the right to do both.

What will happen if my request for my medical record is accepted?
Your health care provider will inform you if he or she agrees to give you your medical record. If you asked to see your records, your doctor or hospital must arrange a convenient time and place for you to review the record. If you have requested a copy of your record, your doctor or hospital should either send it to you or arrange for you to pick up a copy.

How long should it take to get my medical record?

Under Florida law, your health care provider must give you your medical record in a timely manner without delays for legal review. Although Florida law does not set a precise deadline, the HIPAA Privacy Rule generally requires a provider to furnish your medical record within 30 days after they receive your request.

Can it take longer?

Yes. In certain situations, your provider is allowed to take more than 30 days to respond to your request for your medical record under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. For example, if your medical record is kept off-site, your provider may be able to take up to 60 days to respond to your request. But in all cases your provider must give you your medical record within 90 days after receiving your request.

Will I have to show some proof of who I am in order to see or get a copy of my medical record?

Maybe. If your health care provider does not know you well, he or she is supposed to make sure you are the person who has the right of access to the medical record before it is given to you.  Your provider is allowed to choose the method for verifying your identity. For example, your provider might ask for an identification card (such as a driver’s license).

If you are acting as a health care surrogate you may be required to give your provider a copy of the form designating you as the surrogate. You also may be required to show that it is in effect. For example, you may need a letter from the patient’s treating doctor to show that the patient is unable to make health care decisions.

Can I control where my medical record is sent?

Yes. You can ask your health care provider to send the copy of your medical record to your regular address (such as your home) or to another address (such as to your office or to a friend’s house). As long as your request is reasonable, your provider must send your record to the place that you identify.

Can I get a paper, email or fax copy?

It depends. Generally, your health care provider must give you your medical record in the format that you request if it is not difficult to do so. For example, if you request a paper copy of your record, your provider generally must give you a paper copy. Providers must also make sure that they send your records to you in a secure manner. Due to security concerns, many health care providers are reluctant to send copies of medical records by e-mail or fax.

Can I get a summary or explanation of my medical record?

It depends. You may want just a summary of your record. You may want your provider to explain some of the information in your record. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, your health care provider can give a summary or explanation of your medical record if you both agree in advance:
• That it is all right for him or her to give you a summary or explanation, and
• To the fee, if any, he or she wants to charge for writing the summary or explanation.

Your health care provider generally must give you the summary within 30 days from when you request the summary. If they are unable to produce the summary in this time, he or she can get a 30-day extension. Sometimes it can take longer. Your provider can charge you a reasonable fee for the actual time he or she spends preparing the summary or explanation.

I received a copy of my medical record, but I can’t understand it. Doesn’t my provider have to give me a copy that is in plain language that I can understand?

No. Health care providers often use technical words or a type of medical shorthand. Providers are not required to translate this information for you or give you your medical record in a form that you can understand. If you cannot understand what is written in your medical record you can request an explanation of your record. However, your provider is not required to give you an explanation.

Will I have to pay for my medical record?

Maybe. Your health care provider is allowed to charge you a fee for making copies of your medical record. In Florida, the maximum copying fee permitted depends on the type of health care provider. For example, doctors and chiropractors may charge no more than $1 per page for copying the first 25 pages and 25¢ per page for additional pages. Hospitals may charge no more than $1 per page for paper copies. Hospitals may not charge more than $2 per copy for non-paper records. Your health care provider can charge you for postage if you have the copy mailed to you. The maximum fees that other health care providers are allowed to charge for copies may be different.

Can I be charged if I just want to look at or read my medical record?
No. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, your health care provider cannot charge you a fee if you just look at or read your medical record.

Can I be charged for someone searching for my record or for processing my request?

No. You cannot be charged a fee for someone searching for and getting your record. Neither can you be charged for someone processing your request for your record. These fees are often called “retrieval” and “handling” fees. They are not permitted under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Can I be charged for copies of X- rays and similar records?

Yes. Your health care provider may charge you a reasonable fee for copying x-rays and similar records that are not in paper format. The maximum fee permitted depends on the type of health care provider. For example, doctors may charge a fee based on the actual cost of making the copies. You can also be charged postage if you ask that the records be mailed to you. There may be different copying fee limits for other health care providers.

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