Patient’s Guide to HIPAA – Basic Rights: Which Records Can I Get and in What Formats?




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FAQ 20: Which Records Can I Get and in What Formats?

You can generally ask for your all of your records maintained by any covered entity, but the covered entity can withhold some records.  We will cover that subject in FAQ 24.

The copying of paper records is familiar to everyone. For electronic records that a covered entity maintains (whether or not the information is formally maintained in an electronic health record), you have the right to obtain the information from a covered entity in an electronic format. Generally, you can choose the electronic format you want as long as the information is readily reproducible in that format. In order words, a covered entity has to give you the format you want if it can without a great deal of trouble. Be sure to state your preference and ask for alternative formats if you can. You can also ask the covered entity what formats it is capable of providing and then make an appropriate choice.

Remember that some electronic records (e.g., 3-D images created by an MRI) may be maintained in a format that requires special software to read. If your goal is to be able to share an electronic record with a physician, then the native format may be okay because your physician will likely to able to read it in that format even if you can’t.

Depending on your purpose, you may be interested in records of your hospitalization, records from your family physician, records from your insurance company, records from your pharmacy or pharmacy benefit manager, or your records any other covered entity. You can ask every covered entity for all of your records, but the next few questions suggest reasons for narrowing your request.

New in 2013 is a requirement that you can tell a covered entity to transmit your record directly to someone you designate. Your request must be in writing, signed, and clearly identify the designated person and where to send the copy of protected health information. This is not the same as an authorization, which has many more elements to it. Authorizations are discussed in later FAQs.

We think this rule was needed because some hospitals made it hard for a patient’s lawyer to obtain the patient’s record. It’s fine to use this capability, but be careful that you don’t casually or accidentally sign a form that allows someone to get your health records. Whoever gets your records in this fashion may not be subject to HIPAA, and your records could conceivably be made public or used for marketing or profiling. If you allow a data broker or marketer to have a copy of your health records, you are not likely to be happy about the result. This particular change in the rule has potential for mischief, but your can protect yourself by being careful what you sign. That’s good advice all the time.



Roadmap: Patient’s Guide to HIPAA: Part 2: Basic Patient Rights: Right to Inspect and Copy Your Record (FAQ 20 of 65)

Jump to list of FAQs 1-65 | See all of Part 2