How to get it

Explore these tips on how to request your health record — it’s your right.

If you need to get your health record, it helps to understand how the process works. That way, you’ll know what to do if you hit a road block.

How do I get started?

The first step is to check your health care provider’s online patient portal. A patient portal is a secure website, where patients can often do things like make appointments, contact their doctor, and look at lab results. Some of your health information, like your immunizations, may also be available through the patient portal.

Have you tried your provider’s online patient portal?

About 8 in 10 individuals who used their online patient portal found it helpful and easy to understand.

Source: ONC Data Brief 40 [PDF - 1.7 MB]

If the health information you need is not available through the patient portal, you may be able to contact your provider directly through the portal to ask for it. You may even be able to request your complete health record through the patient portal.

If your provider does not have an online patient portal, try other ways to contact them:

Frequently Asked Question

I care for my child, a family member, or another adult — can I access their health record?

Yes, and the process is basically the same as getting your own record. If you have a medical power of attorney — legal paperwork allowing you to make medical decisions for the person — you have the right to access their records. Under HIPAA, a person who can legally make medical decisions for someone else is called a personal representative. If you’re not a personal representative, the person you care for can ask their provider to give you access to their health record. Get more information on personal representatives.

Troubleshooting Tip

Know your rights

If your provider says they can’t provide access to your health record because of HIPAA, tell them that both HIPAA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) require them to give you access to your records. This is your protected right under the law. Learn more about HIPAA and how it protects your right to see and get your health information.

How do I ask for it?

How you make your request will depend on your provider’s processes. You may be able to request it through your provider’s patient portal. You may have to fill out a health or medical record release form, send an email, or mail or fax a letter.

How to fill out a health or medical record release form

Your provider’s medical request release form may be organized differently — there is not a standard form — but these are the questions you’re likely to see.

Patient information

Whose health records do you want? Print their full name, date of birth, patient identification number (PIN), or medical record number (MRN). (PINs and MRNs are assigned by providers. If you don’t know your number, you can ask your provider.) Only 1 person per form.

Clinic, hospital, care provider

Who has the information you want? This can be a name of any health care provider or facility that has the records to be released. Include full name, address, phone number, and secure fax or secure email address.

Date of Services

When did you receive this care? This can be 1 day or a range of dates or years. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor what dates you need.

Information to be released

What information do you need? This is to guide your provider in pulling the records you need. Often, it will be a set of check boxes. Check all that apply. [For more information, see What am I asking for?]

Receiving party or destination of records

Where do you want to send the information? Enter the complete name of person, physician, facility, or company, along with their address, telephone number, and fax number or secure email (through their patient portal. Note: If you need to send your records to more than 1 person or facility, including yourself, a separate request may be required. Ask your provider what they need.

Purpose of release

Why do you need this information? Often, the form will offer a set of check boxes, like ongoing care or new doctor. You can check all that apply, but according to HIPAA, you don’t have to provide this information in order to get your health record. So you can leave this section blank.

Expiration date or duration of consent

How long do you want this release to be valid? Not all forms will include this section. However, if you don’t specify a date, most releases expire 6 months to 1 year from the date you filled out the release. Note: According to HIPAA, you don’t have to provide this information in order to get your health record, and you can leave this section blank.

Release instructions

How and when do you want to have this information? This tells your provider if you’d like your records by a certain date and in a certain format. Although you may be able to specify a shorter time frame, your provider can take up to 30 days to deliver your health record. [For more information, see What format do I need? and How do I want it delivered?]

Signature of Patient or Personal Representative (also called “Patient Representative”)

You must sign the form, or your provider will not be able to process your request.

Date

Enter the date for the day you sign the authorization form.

Relationship to Patient

If you’re not the patient, how are you related to the patient? This will tell the provider if you are the parent of a child or a personal representative.

Legal Authority

Troubleshooting Tip

Bring a form of photo identification

If you deliver your request form or letter in person, you’ll be asked to present identification.

Frequently Asked Question

Can my doctor’s office refuse to give me my health record because I have an unpaid bill?

No. According to federal law, your provider must give you access to your health record, even if you have an unpaid bill.

Do I have to pay a fee to get my health record?

You may have to pay a fee. However, according to your federal rights, your provider may only charge a reasonable fee for:

  1. Making a paper copy or electronic media copy (e.g. CDs or USB drive) of your health record
  2. Mailing you a paper or electronic media copy of your health record

When you send in the request for your health records, ask your provider how much it will cost to get your record.

Troubleshooting Tip

Get your doctor or provider’s contact information

In order to get your health record, you’ll need the full names, physical addresses, phone number, and fax number or secure email (through their patient portal) of all the doctors and providers who are sending and receiving your health record.

How long will I have to wait?

According to federal law, your provider can take up to 30 days to deliver your health records. However, if you requested a specific delivery date, you may get your records sooner. If your provider needs more than 30 days, they must give you a reason for the delay and a new delivery date. They can take up to 30 extra days.

Frequently Asked Question

Why is it taking so long to get my record?

There are a few reasons why getting your record can take some time:

  1. Records can be thousands of pages long, so sorting through them to find the right information can take time.
  2. Your provider may have a high volume of requests. Some large providers get over 10,000 requests a month.
  3. If you are asking for older records, they may be on paper in storage. It may take some time to find these records and process them.

Troubleshooting Tip

Call your provider and ask, “Did you get it?”

After you send in your record request, it’s a good idea to contact your provider and make sure they received your request. Sometimes record requests get lost.

If you requested a specific delivery date and your record hasn’t come, or it’s been more than 30 days, call again. And if you feel that you’re not being taken care of, try calling these departments at your provider’s office:

  • Customer or patient care: They handle concerns about the quality of patient care and service. Their contact information is often found in the Contact Us section of your provider’s website.
  • Patient privacy and rights: Every provider has a designated HIPAA privacy officer. They make sure your provider is following the rules for protecting the privacy of your health record and responding to your right to access it. Their contact information is often found in the Contact Us or Privacy sections of your provider’s website.