Medical Records FAQ’s


There can be dozens of reasons why you may want or need a copy of your medical records. You may be traveling, transferring to a new city or new doctor. You may need them for an insurance claim, social security disability application, short or long term disability, or FMLA application. You may have a personal injury, medical negligence, nursing home abuse or other claims (though it is best to talk to your lawyer before requesting the records). So here are the questions;
1. Do you have a right to obtain a copy of your medical records, or the records of your minor children?
2. How do you obtain a copy of your records?

Do You Have a Right to Obtain a Copy of Your Medical Records?

It would be nice to answer that question with a vigorous, “Absolutely!” But the reality is that while the answer is “yes,” there are both conditions to access and copying and in some situations, limitations.

This article is intended to provide you with a general overview of your rights under Federal law—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended (“HIPAA”), and the Federal privacy regulations—and a general overview about obtaining your medical records under state law. This article doesn’t constitute legal advice, and you should always consult an attorney licensed in whatever state you live in, if you have questions about, or problems with, getting a copy of your medical records, or those of your minor child.

Medical Record Access Under Federal Law

Under HIPAA and the Privacy Rule, you have a general right to access your own “protected health information”—what most people refer to as medical records—as well as that of your minor children. You have a right to look at the records or obtain a copy. You also have the right to instruct your health care provider to send a copy of your medical records to someone else. You have this right regardless of when the medical records were created, whether it’s stored on paper or electronically or a mixture, and whether it’s stored at the doctor’s office or somewhere else.

You have a right to obtain a wide range of information about your health or the health of your child, including, but not limited to, records of your treatment, diagnosis, laboratory test results, clinical imaging like X-rays, records of billing and payment, insurance information, clinical notes by doctors and nurses, and other types of records generally used to make a decision about treatment. While your doctor has a duty to produce existing medical records, she has no obligation to create a new one, such as creating a summary of your medical records.

There are some types of records you can’t obtain, however, under Federal law. The two main ones are psychotherapy notes, i.e., the personal notes made by a mental health care provider while treating you or your child (45 C.F.R. §164.524(a)(1)(i) and §164.501), and information which your doctor or other provider has “compiled in reasonable anticipation of a civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding” (45 C.F.R. §164.524(a)(1)(ii)).

This right of access also includes a “personal representative.” While this phrase is most often used in the law to refer to someone appointed by a probate court to manage a decedent’s estate, under the Privacy Rule it has a much broader meaning: anyone under your state’s law who has the power to make health care decisions for you, or who otherwise has the power to act on your behalf.

How do you get access to your records?
Unless you have a very close relationship with your doctor so that a telephone call will be fine, you usually have to make a written request. Most often, your health care provider, whether your physician or a hospital, will have a form for you to fill out, or the provider may have a system that allows you to make an electronic request, via email or through the online access many providers now have for their patients.

However, your doctor or a hospital can’t impose unreasonable requirements for getting your medical records. For example, you can’t be required to physically come to the office to make the request, or use a web portal (not everyone has ready access to the Internet), or to mail the request. While these may be some of the options offered for getting the request to the provider, they can’t be mandated.

You can ask for a paper copy, or an electronic copy of paper records, such as scanning them into a PDF format, or an electronic copy of records which are maintained electronically. You can specify the form and format for the electronic records in your request, and the provider has to honor your request, provided the information is “readily producible in that form or format.” If it is not, then you may have to discuss alternative options. Generally speaking, if you can’t come to an agreement on an electronic form and format, the provider can satisfy its obligation by providing you with a hard copy.

How fast can you get your medical records?
Under the Privacy Rule, providers are allowed up to thirty days but are encouraged to respond as soon as possible. The provider can, however, get an additional thirty days by informing you in writing, within the initial thirty days, of the reason for the delay and the date on which the records will be available. Only one extension is allowed.

Do you have to pay for a copy of your medical records, or your child’s?
While the song says “the best things in life are free,” medical records are, for the most part, not one of those “best things.” Under the Privacy Rule, providers can charge only: (1) the reasonable cost of the labor for making the copy you asked for; (2) supplies to make the copy, such as the cost of a CD or a USB drive; (3) postage, if you ask to have the records mailed, or (4) if you request a summary or explanation of your medical records, the cost of preparing one. (Note that preparing a summary or explanation appears to be discretionary with the provider. The provider can agree to do it—and charge you for it—but doesn’t have to do it.) If your provider maintains records electronically, he has the option but is not required, to charge a flat fee for providing an electronic copy.

Your provider should inform you in advance of what the costs will be. Even so, as part of your written request, you should always ask what the costs will be. Keep notes regarding any of your conversations with the medical records department. Also, keep a copy of any requests or emails regarding your requests for records.

How Do You Obtain a Copy of Your Medical Records?

Medical Record Access Under Kansas Law

Starting in 2002, Kansas had a law which set out the parameters for a patient obtaining access to his or her medical records and specified the fees which could be charged for copies of medical records. Those fees were updated annually by the Kansas Department of Labor. The Legislature repealed that law in 2011. It appears, therefore, that it is the Federal standards which govern getting your or your child’s medical records in Kansas.

Medical Record Access Under Missouri Law

The Missouri statute governing medical record access is §191.227, R.S.Mo. Pursuant to the law, on February 1st of each year, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services updates the copying costs, based on the formula set by the statute. A link to this page is provided below.

One of the things Missouri authorizes is a search and retrieval fee of up to $24.85. This appears to conflict with Federal law, which prohibits such fees. However, the cost and time consumed in fighting over $25 may be more trouble than just paying that part of the overall charge. IN addition to the retrieval fee the health care provider can charge (at this time…it goes up periodically) fifty-three cents (.53) PER PAGE for the cost of supplies and labor. There can be additional fees if the records are in storage or if you need an affidavit of authenticity notarized.

Don’t Request Your Entire Medical Record IF You Don’t Need To

The cost of obtaining your medical records can be very high when paying the retrieval fee and over fifty cents a page. Thus, before you request your records it is important to decide which records you really need. You may want to limit the request to a specific time frame or you may want to just request an abstract. A hospital chart contains many different types of records – including but not limited to: Admitting History and Physical, Operative Reports, Consultation Reports, Radiology, Laboratory, Medication Charts, Doctors Orders, Nurses Notes, Discharge Summary, Patient Education, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, informed consent documents, insurance documents and many other types of records. If you don’t need all these records there is no reason to request your entire chart. If you can narrow down the request to just what is necessary it may save you hundreds of dollars and a great deal of time for the office you are requesting the records from.

Reminders and Helpful Things to Consider

First, getting a copy of your medical records, or those of your minor child, should be a simple matter. Normally you will have to do nothing more than ask your doctor or your hospital for the form to authorize the release of your medical records, fill it out and get it back to the provider in the way most convenient for you. Hospitals are likely to have their medical records release policies and forms online (see some links below), and your doctor may well have a form online if he has a Web site.

Second, remember that even if your provider has a way for you to access your medical records online, the provider can’t limit you to only looking at the records online, or perhaps manually downloading some of what you see on your screen (assuming the software permits it). You have a right to obtain paper and/or electronic copies of the medical records without you having to do all the work yourself.

Third, there will be costs. Be sure you ask what they will be so there are no surprises. Some providers may require you to pay the costs in advance, and it is not improper for them to do so.

Last, if you are uncertain as to how to request records or what records you might need, please feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to discuss this with you for free.

Medical Records Access Information For Hospitals in Kansas City and Surrounding Areas

Below is a list of links offering information on how to access medical records from hospitals in Kansas City and surrounding areas. Some area hospitals with electronic health records (EHRs) may offer patient portals–secure online websites that give patients access to their personal health information and medical records at their convenience. Using a secure username and password, patients can view health information such as recent doctor visits, discharge summaries, medications, immunizations, allergies, and lab results.

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Cullan & Cullan
4900 Main St, #310
Kansas City, Missouri 64112
Phone: (816) 861-7600
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Serving Missouri, Kansas, and Arizona, our medical records lawyers can help victims restore their lives with experienced legal services. We have advanced training in medicine, anatomy, nursing, and engineering and have been handling brain injury cases for more than 20 years.

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Kansas City Medical Records Attorney Disclaimer: The information on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal or medical advice. This website is provided by The Law Offices of Cullan and Cullan M.D., J.D. for informational purposes only. Laws are very complex. You should not rely on a website or advice from a friend who had a case when it comes to making decisions about your rights. You should personally consult with an attorney as early as possible for advice regarding your own situation. Every situation is different. Every state is different. There are many factors that are important for an attorney to know before it is possible to give you advice on your case.