To investigate a medical malpractice case, we need to see the patient’s medical records. One of the more frustrating parts of my professional life is dealing with doctors’ offices, hospitals, HealthPort, IOD, and others in an attempt to help our clients get their own medical records.
Some of the stumbling blocks include:
- long and complicated forms;
- outrageous charges; and
- time delays caused by underpaid and understaffed offices.
Another road block occurs because some people seem to intentionally misinterpret the law. That’s why it’s nice that the Department of Health and Human Services has recently issued guidance to clarify what the law says.
The guidelines, titled “Individuals’ Right Under HIPAA to Access their Health Information 45 CFR Section 164.524,” include some helpful clarifications:
- patients do not have to say why they want their records and
- doctors and hospitals should ordinarily provide records within 30 days of a request. (In Virginia, requests must be fulfilled within 15 days.)
Perhaps my favorite statement from the HHS guidelines is its first:
“Providing individuals with easy access to their health information empowers them to be more in control of decisions regarding their health and well-being.”
Well said. So true.