If you have ever tried to obtain your own medical records, then you know firsthand what a nightmare it can be. A new set of guidelines under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is about to change all of that for consumers. The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration has said that “doctors and hospitals cannot require patients to state a reason for requesting their records, and cannot deny access out of a general concern that patients might be upset by the information.”
Under the new guidelines, patients will no longer be forced to physically pickup their records; instead, they can ask for mailed or electronic copies. Unpaid medical bills cannot be held against patients who want to access their records, and no patients can be charged a data search or retrieval fee, though healthcare providers can charge a fee for copying the pages.
This is a big step in helping healthcare consumers get what they need to make informed decisions about their care. If you know what your records say, you can decide whether or not to seek a second opinion, or to ask different questions about treatment options.
Why enforcement of the guidelines matters
Under HIPAA, you have the right to your own information. As we discussed