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How to Obtain Your Medical Records

SyberScribe AUTHOR: SyberScribe, October 12th, 2015

Applying to obtain your health records can be an intimidating task for someone who isn’t used to navigating the health system. Being prepared with the proper documentation and knowing what will be required ahead of time will help minimise any frustrations you may have in getting the information in a timely manner.

Who do your records belong to?

It may surprise you to discover that your medical records don’t actually belong to you but to the medical professional who provided your care. This could be a hospital or private medical office, for example. In fact, your request for medical records can even be denied. If the owner of these medical records feels that there could be a negative consequence in the patient having access to such information, they don’t have to provide the records.

For some people, it’s vital that they obtain a copy of their medical records. It allow them to take information regarding their medical history to any professional they choose, giving them a more complete picture of their health. A person may need medical records to apply for disability. Due to privacy issues, however, the health practitioner will have to verify that you are indeed who you say you are. You must follow proper procedures to ensure you get the information you’re looking for in a timely fashion.

Forms and fees

Documentation is a very important part of obtaining your medical records. The practitioner’s office will need to verify that you are who you say you are. That entity can otherwise be held liable if the medical records fall into the wrong hands. As a result, you’ll be asked to complete several forms when looking to obtain your medical records. These all include a request for the records as well as identifying personal information. You may also be asked for contact information such as your address and phone number. You must state if you want all of your medical records or just those relating to a specific date or incident. For example, you may be interested in a date when you went to the ER due to a broken ankle, or you may want all the records that the ER has on file for you throughout your lifetime.

Once the forms are completed and signed, the request will be evaluated and completed by the practitioner’s office. Perhaps you just want your medical records sent from a hospital to your regular doctor or a specialist. Maybe you’re changing doctors and want to take your medical records with you. There is a chance, especially with private clinics, that you’ll be charged a fee for the release of these records. The fee has to be paid at the time the forms are submitted or the requests will be denied.


Make sure to request your medical records as soon as possible after you know that you need or want them. Find out what the procedure is for that particular facility. You don’t want to experience the frustration of delays or denials because you didn’t follow the correct procedure. It can take up to 45 days from the time you submit the completed documents and pay any applicable fees for your medical records to be delivered, and you don’t want to miss having them for an important appointment or application deadline.

Method of delivery

You have several choices when it comes to the delivery method of your medical records. The goal is to make it as convenient for patients as possible. Faxing or emailing the documents to other medical professionals is quite common. You can also request to have the documents mailed to you, or to be called when they’re ready to be picked up. If you opt for a physical copy of the medical records then you may need to pay fees for printing and shipping.

Release without consent

For your privacy, the law protects your medical records from falling into the hands of just anyone. Without your consent, they can only be released with a court order. Medical professionals, potential employers, and even health insurance providers or life insurance providers can’t access them without your consent.

Keep this in mind when you feel like you’re jumping through hoops to obtain your records. They aren’t trying to make it difficult for you just for red-tape’s sake; they’re merely trying to ensure individuals who shouldn’t have access aren’t finding ways to easily get that information about someone else. The process is in place for your protection and privacy.

If you believe your medical records have been compromised, you have the right to file a complaint. You’ll need to do so with the entity where you believe the breach of privacy occurred. If you can’t come to an agreement then you can escalate the claim with the Privacy Commissioner. They’ll investigate the case to determine the validity of such complaints.

Medical records of the deceased

A parent or legal guardian can ask for the medical records of a minor. An adult can also ask for the records of a deceased relative, however, verification of both relationships is required for such a request to be approved. The exception is if you are the executor of the estate of the deceased. In such a scenario, a copy of their will must be provided or the medical records will not be given.

Request for medical records denied

Many people are surprised to discover that their request for medical records may be denied. There are several reasons why this may happen. Primarily it occurs because the paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly or the applicant hasn’t shown that they have a right to the information. An applicant does have the right to file an appeal in this case. The practitioner must provide a written statement explaining why they refuse to provide the records, which can be examined for errors. Your appeal needs to be completed in writing within 21 days of the denial.

As long as you have all the documentation and fill all of the forms correctly, you should have no trouble obtaining your health records.