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Keeping Your Medical Records Private

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

Your health care provider may only disclose your health care information to another person, after your written consent. There are a few very narrow exceptions to this rule.

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Can my health care provider share my medical records with others?

Only after getting your written consent. There are a few exceptions.

How do I authorize my health care provider to give another provider my health care info?

Your written consent must clearly state all of these:

  • The nature of the info.

  • Who is getting and giving it.

  • Your name.

*If your written consent or authorization meets this description, your health care provider must honor it.

The health care provider may charge a “reasonable fee” for disclosing the health care info. You may have to pay this fee before your health care provider will disclose your health care info. In 2018, a “reasonable fee” is up to $1.17 a page to copy the first 30 pages, and up to 83 cents after that. Your health care provider may also charge a $26 clerical fee.

Can my health care provider disclose my health care information without my written permission?

Only to someone who needs the in­fo under very limited circumstances. Examples:

  • To someone your health care provider reasonably believes is giving you care.

  • Verbally, if made in accordance with good medical practice, to a relative or someone else with whom the health care provider believes you have a close personal relationship. You can stop this from happening by letting your health care provider know, in writing, that you forbid it.

  • Under restrictive circumstances to those needing the info for education, research, or for the administra­tion of health care by the health care pro­vider.

  • When a court requires it.

Other circumstances where your provider may disclose your health care info:

  • For use in research.

  • To pro­tect the public health.

  • You are in a cus­todial institution such as a prison.

I think my provider has inappropriately disclosed my medical records. What can I do?

Talk to a lawyer. You can get a court order stopping fur­ther disclosure of your health care records.

You can collect damages for any prior unau­thorized disclosure. If you win, you may also win attorney’s fees and expenses to cover the costs of the lawsuit.

If you have a good case, a lawyer may represent you without a fee, expecting to get attorney’s fees from the other side. Many lawyers will talk to you for free to evaluate your case. Contact your local bar associa­tion’s Lawyer Referral Service, if available.

What is the law about privacy and my medical records?

That state law is in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) at chapter 70.02. 

*We do not cover the release of mental health records here.

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 January 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.)

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Last Review and Update: Jan 27, 2018
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