Your Rights to Your Medical Records Under HIPAA

Our medical records are vitally important for a number of reasons.

They're the way your current healthcare providers follow your health and health care. They provide background to specialists and bring new practitioners up-to-speed. Your medical records are the records of the people with whom we literally entrust our lives.

While you have certain rights regarding your medical records, you may face difficulties when requesting them.

Doctor getting file in medical records room Doctor getting file in medical records room
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Common Questions

Frequently asked questions about medical records include:

  • May I see my chart at my doctor's office?
  • My doctor says they can only give a copy of my records to another doctor, not directly to me. Do I have a right to get a copy of my records from my doctor and how do I do so?
  • What do I do if I find an error in my medical records or disagree with something my doctor said about me?

How HIPAA Works

It may seem strange, but the answers to these questions lie in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA applies not only to health insurance but privacy and medical records issues as well.

May I see my chart at my doctor's office?

Yes. HIPAA gives you the right to see your medical records in your healthcare providers' offices.

My doctor says they can only give a copy of my records to another doctor, not directly to me. Do I have a right to get a copy of my records from my doctor?

HIPAA not only allows your healthcare provider to give a copy of your medical records directly to you, it requires it. In most cases, the copy must be provided to you within 30 days.

That time frame can be extended another 30 days, but you must be given a reason for the delay.

In a few special cases, you may not be able to get all of your information. For example, if your healthcare provider decides something in your file might endanger you or someone else, they may not have to give you that information.

You may be charged for making and mailing copies, but only reasonable fees for covering the office's costs for providing those services, including office supplies and labor. Other charges may relate to special requests.

From a U.S. Health and Human Services FAQ:

"If the patient has agreed to receive a summary or explanation of his or her protected health information, the covered entity may also charge a fee for preparation of the summary or explanation. The fee may not include costs associated with searching for and retrieving the requested information."

What do I do if I find an error in my medical records or disagree with something my doctor said about me?

If you find an error in your medical records, you can request that it be corrected. You can also ask them to add information to your file if it's incomplete or change something you disagree with.

For example, if you and your healthcare provider agree that there's an error such as what medication was prescribed, they must change it.

Even if your healthcare provider doesn't agree that there's an error, you have the right to have your disagreement noted in your records. In most cases, the file should be changed within 60 days, but it can take an additional 30 days if you're given a reason.

Resolving Problems

HIPAA, the same act that regulates how our health information is handled to protect our privacy, also gives us the right to see and obtain a copy of our records and to dispute anything we feel is erroneous or has been omitted.

If you have difficulty with either of these issues, simply asking the office staff personnel involved to review HIPAA regulations will usually be enough to resolve the situation.

This is, however, one of those areas where it's sometimes best to "choose your battles" wisely. At times, demanding a copy of your records or insisting that you disagree with something in your records isn't worth the time or stress involved.

If an error or omission in your records is minor, it might not be worth pursuing and risking a problem in the relationship with your healthcare provider and their staff.

Healthcare providers will usually send a copy of your records to a new practitioner at no charge, as a professional courtesy. This could be easier and far less stressful than obtaining a copy to give to your new healthcare provider.

These are considerations, but only you can make the final decision.


HIPAA regulates:

  • What medical information may be released
  • To whom
  • And for what purposes

Information is listed at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights HIPAA website.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health information privacy. Updated September 28, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How timely must a covered entity be in responding to individuals’ requests for access to their PHI? Updated June 24, 2016.

  3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. If patients request copies of their medical records as permitted by the Privacy Rule, are they required to pay for the copies? Updated July 26, 2013.

  4. Sliney, Jr. J. How to demand accurate medical records. June 25, 2018.