Reviewing and Getting Copies of Your Medical Records
You have a right, under almost all circumstances, to examine and obtain copies of your medical file. Your health care provider must also explain any abbreviations or codes used in your medical records.
- Do I have the right to look at and get copies of the medical records kept by my health care provider?
- How do I exercise this right?
- Will my health care provider charge me for copies of my medical file?
- Can my health care provider refuse my request?
- My provider has denied me copies of my medical file. What can I do?
- What is the law on this?
Usually. There are a few exceptions. See “Can my health care provider refuse my request,” below.
*Your health care provider must explain any abbreviations or codes in your medical records.
You must give your health care provider a written request to look at and get copies of your medical records. The health care provider must honor your request "as promptly as required under the circumstances.” They generally have fifteen days.
Your health care provider can charge a "reasonable fee" for your copies. You may have to pay up front.
In 2017, a health care provider may charge, as a “reasonable fee,” up to $1.17 a page for the first thirty pages, 83 cents a page after that, and a $26 clerical fee. WAC 246-08-0400.
*If you are appealing the denial of your Social Security disability or SSI application, you can get a free copy of your medical record once every two years. RCW 70.02.030(2)(b).
They believe the info would be harmful to your health.
It would reveal the source of appropriately confidential info.
It would endanger someone’s health or safety.
The provider used or compiled the health care info just for a court case.
A health care provider who denies your request for any of these reasons must try to separate the info they believe they should not release, and give you what they can.
A health care provider who denies your request because of a claim of danger to yourself or another must tell you of your right, at your own expense, to have another health care provider inspect the file to see if you may look at and get copies of the records.
Talk to a lawyer. You can get a court order forcing your health care provider to make your records available to you. You can also ask for actual damages for any refusal to allow you to see and get copies of your medical records. If you win, you can get lawyer's fees and expenses. If you have a good case, a lawyer may represent you without a fee, and try to get attorney's fees from the other side. Many lawyers will talk to you for free to evaluate your case. To find a lawyer, contact your local bar association.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of June 2018.
© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)