Americans' medical documents are well protected. The privacy and integrity of patients' medical records are protected by both federal and state laws. One of the most important federal protections is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Pennsylvania also has medical records laws on the books. They allow employees to request medical records from their employer or health care professional. Pennsylvania law also requires reporting of contagious or infectious diseases.
The basics of Pennsylvania medical records laws are highlighted in the following chart, while additional information on the subject can be found below it. See FindLaw's Patient Rights section for related content.
|Who Has Access to Records?||-|
|What Privileges Apply to Medical Records?||Physician privilege limited to civil matters (42 §5929)|
|Mandatory Reporting Requirements||Communicable diseases (35 §521.4)|
|Patient Consent and Waiver||-|
|Provisions Related to HIV/AIDS||All HIV-related information confidential; limited disclosure (35 §7607)|
Federal Health Care Records Laws
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides privacy protections for patients, and restricts with whom doctors and other entities may share medical records. Generally, doctors, hospitals, and staff are required to keep a patient's medical records confidential. However, if the patient gives permission to disclose the records, or if a doctor needs to disclose medical records to someone else (like a nurse) in order to provide adequate care, the doctor may disclose the information.
Who Has Access to Medical Records
In Pennsylvania, a patient always has the right to receive his or her medical records. The patient has this right whether or not they have paid their bills. This means that doctors and hospitals are not allowed to keep records as a condition of payment.
Medical Record Privileges
In some states, doctors are given an evidentiary privilege when it comes to their patient's treatment, and statements made when receiving treatment. This means that a court cannot force the doctor to testify about a patient's medical treatment or statements made in order to receive treatment. This rule allows patients to receive the best care possible without the worry of how their statements can be used against them in court later. In Pennsylvania, doctors cannot be forced to testify about these matters, unless the patient brings the lawsuit and the patient's physical or mental health is in question.
In some cases, doctors are required to disclose medical information. Normally, this medical information will be given to a state or other government agency, and will not contain any personally identifiable information. In Pennsylvania, doctors may be asked to report HIV/AIDS information that does not contain the patients personal information.
If you would like to know more about the medical records laws in Pennsylvania, there are many attorneys throughout the state with Health Care Law experience who may be able to help. In addition to giving you information about current health care regulations, and how they affect your medical care, an attorney can help you force a doctor or hospital to give you records of your medical care, and help you get reimbursement if you have suffered any harm due to an improper disclosure of your records.
Contact a qualified attorney.