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HIPAA Guidelines for Patients to Get Medical Records

Colored Medical Record Chart TabsPatients, and their appropriately authorized representatives, should have ability to access medical records (in all but a few instances).  One of the greatest barriers people calling our office for a case consultation face is obtaining the records necessary for legal review.  These same barriers prevent patients, guardians and others from procuring their records so they can make informed decisions as consumers of medical treatment.

Thankfully, as pointed out in a recent article in the New York Times, the Obama (Federal) Administration has published guidelines that restate medical providers’ obligation to furnish appropriately requested medical records in a timely manner.  There are only limited instances in which a provider may deny a request, and these understandably involve issues related to patient safety.

According to the newly published guidelines under HIPAA, the Department of Health and Human Services ( offers this information along with FAQ’s.

Some highlights of these guidelines include:

  • Providers are given 30 calendar days to satisfy such an appropriate request.
  • Records are to be furnished via electronic format if so requested and if the facility has reasonable capacity to do so.
  • Facilities may charge for the actual expenses related to copying the records, but not for time spent in gathering records.
  • Facilities may not withhold records if patients (or appropriate representatives) decline to describe the reason they are requesting records.

It is always good to inquire if a hospital has a set protocol for requesting records.

If they do not, ROSEN & SPEARS encourage patients, or their legally designated representative, to request records in writing, and to mail a certified copy to the facility so there is proof of when it was delivered.

Also, unless the file is very small, we suggest specifying preference for electronic format (again in writing) as it is usually less expensive than copies of the paper records.

For more information, please view the HIPAA guideline, "Individuals’ Right under HIPAA to Access their Health Information 45 CFR § 164.524".

If we can be of assistance, please contact us for a case consultation.


Rosen & Spears is a law firm that works with medical malpractice, and nursing home abuse and neglect claims.

Please contact us for a free consultation if you or a loved one has a situation that needs to be reviewed.


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About the author

Rosen & Spears is a plaintiff law firm which seeks to protect the rights of healthcare consumers and their loved ones through medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, financial abuse of seniors, and other types of claims. For more information, please contact us