Patients’ Right to Access Medical Records

Medical Records

Many individuals are complaining that their health care providers refuse to provide them with their medical records. The most important thing you can do is know your rights regarding the release of information. Consequently, to protect yourself, you should make all requests in writing, certified mail return receipt requested. Below we explain more about a patient’s rights to his/her medical records.

What Does Montana Law Say About a Patient’s Right to Access Medical Records?

Montana Law provides that upon receipt of a written request from a patient to examine or copy all or part of the patient’s recorded health care information, a health care provider, as promptly as required under the circumstances but no later than 10 days after receiving the request shall:
a. Make the information available without a charge during business hours.
b. Inform the patient the information does not exist or cannot be found.
c. Inform the patient that the records are maintained by a third party and where they may be obtained.
d. If there is an unusual delay, provide a clear written explanation of the reason for the delay, under which circumstances the health care provider would have 21 days.

Unfortunately, most health care providers will charge for records. Montana Law allows a reasonable fee defined as $15 to search for the file and $0.50 per page copied. So you will likely have to pay for the records.

Can Medical Professionals Refuse Requests for Medical Records?

Concerning situations where a health care provider refuses to provide the records, they must justify the refusal with a clear written explanation. For example, a refusal to retrieve records may happen if disclosing the records would cause serious harm to the patient. Another example includes if the records contain substantial information or confidential information concerning others.

Many people sign standard releases when they see a physician that allows the provider to disclose their records for any reason. Ask your provider if you have the option of refusing the release, except if requested by another health care provided necessary for your own treatment. Don’t sign blanket releases under any circumstances.

In Montana the legislature has recognized the widespread practice of compiling and selling health care information to insurance companies, marking companies, companies that provide background checks, and any other entity who may find your personal health care information useful. In the Legislative Findings, the Montana Legislature has recognized wrongful “exchange of health care information from automated data banks” across State lines. Under the Montana Constitution’s Right to Privacy provisions, the privacy of medical records are a Montana constitutional right.

What Do I Do If I Am Unable to Get My Patient Records?

If your rights are being violated, you should lodge a complaint with the Montana Attorney General. He/she can then investigate, order the release of medical records, and impose fines. You may also file a complaint with the District Court where you live. The Court may order disclosure to you, enjoin wrongful health care dissemination, and award damages to you up to $5,000.00.

In conclusion, when you seek medical treatment ask what the health care provider’s policy is on access to medical records and release of your medical information. Be persistent and demand explanations in writing. This will usually result in access to your medical records. You own the records. Assert your rights. If you need more help, please call us to discuss how to look at your medical records through a third-party lawyer.

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