We frequently get questions from clients regarding access to their medical records. As a firm practicing heavily in personal injury, we are privy to requesting client’s medical records, but if you are not in a personal injury suit, what are your rights to your medical records?

In Indiana, both HIPAA and Indiana law give you rights in your medical records. You have the right to see and get a copy of your medical record, have information added to your medical record to make it more accurate or complete, file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, and sue in state court if your health care provider violates your rights under Indiana law.

Most Indiana health care providers have to follow the HIPAA Privacy Rule and state laws. However, some health care providers do not have to follow the HIPAA Privacy Rule because it only covers health care providers that use computers to send health information for certain administrative or financial purposes. Even if the provider does not have to follow the HIPAA Privacy Rule they still have to follow Indiana laws that give you rights to your medical records.

The HIPPA Privacy Rule above applies to doctors, dentists, hospitals, and similar institutions. Unfortunately, it may not apply to receiving and amending your mental health records. Psychotherapy notes are treated differently than other records under HIPAA so they may not be obtainable.

Parents also have a right to receive and amend their child’s medical records. In Indiana, a parent has this right until the child is 18. A parent’s right to receive and amend their child’s medical record may be denied if a health care provider reasonably believes that a parent is abusing or neglecting their child. Once the child turns 18, he or she has the right to see, get a copy of, and amend his or her own medical record. If the child is under 18 and emancipated, he or she has the right to get and amend his or her own medical record.

Appointed health care representatives have the right to get and amend records of the person over whom they are a representative of. The representative has these rights only during the time that they have the authority to act as the health care representative.

Indiana law generally requires health care providers to keep medical records at least 7 years after the date the record was made. Indiana health care providers must keep your x-ray film for at least 5 years. Many health care providers keep their records longer. In our experience, we are often able to get our client’s medical records for treatment rendered at least 10 years prior.

Each individual provider has specific procedures for requesting medical records. Check with your provider to see what you have to do to obtain or amend your records. Most providers require a fee to get a copy of your records. If a health care provider does not have a form for requesting your medical record, your request should generally include the following: the date of your request, your name and address, the name of the health care provider from whom who are requesting your record, a description of the information that you want to see or copy (such as whether you want the entire record, the medical condition for which you are asking information, the dates of treatment, or specific test results), whether you want to see your medical record or make a copy of it, and your signature and the date.

If your request for medical records is accepted, your health care provider will inform you if they approve the request. Generally, within 30 days after they receive your request, your health care provider must either let you see or give you a copy of your medical record or tell you that they are denying your request. The 30 days does not start until your provider receives your request for medical records. Their response can take a little longer if the medical records are kept off site.

Many of our clients have trouble understanding and reading their medical records because the doctors and nurses use medical jargon that lay people cannot understand. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, your health care provider can give a summary or explanation of your medical record if you both agree in advance that it is all right for them to give you a summary or explanation and to the fee, if any, they want to charge for writing the summary or explanation.

There may be a situation where you want to request your medical records but there is an unpaid bill for that health care provider. Your provider cannot deny your request for your medical records just because you have not paid your bill. Additionally, if your health care provider denies your request for medical records because they believe that seeing it might endanger you or another person, you have the right to have a different health care professional review their decision. At the time your provider denies your request for your record, they must tell you in writing if you have a right to a review and how to ask for a review. If you request a review, your provider must choose another licensed health care professional to review their decision.  The reviewer makes the final decision whether you are allowed to get your medical record.

If your request to review your record is approved and you find something in your record that you believe is incorrect, you have the right to add information to make it more accurate or complete. However, you do not have the right to have information removed from your record. Before you ask your health care provider to amend your medical record, you should identify the part of your medical record that you think is inaccurate or incomplete and identify the health care provider that created the information or that first put the information into your record.

The health care provider has the right to deny your request to amend your medical record. Generally, they can deny your request when they determine your record is accurate or complete or when they did not create the information that you want to amend. If your request is denied, you have the right to give your health care provider a written statement that explains why you disagree with their decision, and your statement is then added to your medical record. In the future, when the provider shares your medical information with others, your provider must also give them a copy of their denial of your request to amend and a copy of your statement of disagreement.

For further questions on how to receive or amend your medical records, there are a number of resources available. Your health care provider should be able to answer many of your questions about getting and amending your medical records. Your provider’s notice of privacy practices must contain a general description of your right to see, get a copy of, and amend your medical record. The Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Health and Human Services may also be able to answer your questions about your rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Source: “Your Medical Record Rights in Indiana” by Joy Pritts, JD and Nina L. Kudszus, Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University