Your Los Angeles hospital records contain valuable information about you and your medical history. If you want to know the steps to take to obtain copies of your health records and what privacy protections you have under state and federal law, read on.
FindLaw has created a basic resource to help patients exercise their rights and protect their medical records in Los Angeles. And by the way, it seems like there are almost as many hospitals in the City of Angeles as there are celebrities. Well, not really, but there are quite a few.
Do I have a right to my health records?
Yes. Both federal (HIPAA) and state law give you rights to see and receive copies of your medical records. The law doesn't require doctors to transfer records between health care providers, but most do as a professional courtesy. Contact your specific doctor or health professional for more information.
Basically, in California you have the right to:
The Medical Board of California's website provides some valuable information. Check it out to learn more.
Do I own my medical records?
Technically your doctor owns the physical copy of your records and can keep the original. Don't worry. You still have the right to look at them and get copies. Hey, a copy is as good at the original.
How do I get my records? Is there a form?
There isn't one standard form. Your doctor should have a form you can use to request your records.
Second, you should be pretty explicit about which records you want. Here are some tips for your request:
Third, not every Tom, Dick and Harriett can get your medical records. Your provider will give you a notice of privacy practices, usually at your first visit.
Sometimes your doctor can disclose your records without your authorization. Examples include if you are a threat to public safety or are involved in a situation related to victims of abuse or neglect. Also, if you are incapacitated or in an emergency, providers sometimes may use or disclose your medical information if it's in your best interests. Finally, they can be disclosed if it's required by law, such as by a subpoena or court order.
How long do I have to wait?
If you just want to look at your records, your doctor must provide them to you within five days of your written request.
If you want a copy, you'll have to wait a little longer -- your provider must give it to you within 15 days of receiving your request.
Will I have to pay for my medical records?
Probably. Your doctor may charge for the reasonable costs of copying and mailing your records if you request paper copies. That means 25 cents per page for photocopies and 50 cents for copies from microfilm.
But remember, your health care provider can't charge you a fee to just look at or read your medical records.
What if I can't pay my medical bills? Can my provider withhold my records until I pay up?
No, your doctor can't hold your medical records hostage until you pay your bill. You are entitled to those records under state and federal law.
Can my doctor deny my medical records request? Do I have any recourse?
There are instances where your doctor can deny your request to see or get a copy of your medical records, but only in a few cases. For example, if you are parent, a physician may refuse your request to inspect or obtain copies of your child's records if a he or she determines that access to the patient's records would have a detrimental effect on the doctor's professional relationship with the child or the child's physical safety or psychological well-being.
Also, a health care professional can deny you access to your mental health records if he or she believes that letting you see your record might physically endanger you.
In such cases, your doctor must provide you information about your right to have their decision reviewed and how to file a complaint. The physician will be contacted to determine the reason for failing to provide you with access to your medical records.
Who has to follow these laws?
Most health care providers such as doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and nursing homes, as well as your health plan.
Contact a qualified attorney.