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Important Questions to Ask When Transferring Medical Records

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Trying to find a new doctor for you and your family before you relocate can be a time-consuming endeavor - and once you find a new physician, you have the added task of transferring your medical records.
Don't let obtaining your records become a complicated process. Get familiar with some common questions and answers before you begin.

Will I be charged for obtaining a copy of my medical records?

If you are obtaining a personal copy of your records, then your current doctor does have the right to charge a "reasonable" cost-based fee.  These fees vary from state to state, and cover printing, labor and postage costs (if applicable). For example, in North Carolina, the cost may be $0.75 per page for the first 25 pages, and $0.50 per page from 26 to 100 pages. In Ohio, the cost is $2.50 per page for the first 10 pages, then $0.50 per page from 11 to 50 pages. Be sure to check with your state's medical board to find out specific details. If you are transferring your medical records to a new physician, your current doctor may consider this a "professional courtesy" at no cost to you, but this isn't always the case. Fees can vary for electronic versions of records as well.

Keep in mind that only medical records are figured into these prices. If you need a digital copy or film copy of any x-rays, MRIs, etc., they will require a separate fee for producing them - your doctor or facility should be able to provide you with specifics.

Do my medical records belong to me?

No. Medical records are not the patient's property, but the property of the doctor's office/physician who prepares them. However, based on the HIPAA law, you have a right to see your medical records and obtain copies of them from your physician. If your doctor refuses to release your records, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

How far in advance do I have to schedule the transfer?

Ideally, you will want your medical records to be transferred to your new physician's office prior to you needing to visit the doctor in your new location. Processing copies of records can vary in timeframe, but should generally not take more than two weeks (unless other circumstances prohibit expediting your request). If you prefer, you can obtain a hard copy for yourself even before you select a new doctor, and hand the documents over to your new doctor when you arrive.

What forms do I need to fill out?

You will need to give authorization to transfer your medical records. You can write your own letter or form to send to your current physician, but be sure to include your name, address, SSN, date of birth and statement that you are authorizing your records for release. If you have a new physician, you should indicate the records be transferred to him/her, and provide the address and telephone number of your new doctor. Your physician may provide a form for you, or you can also have your lawyer draw one up.  Talk to your current provider to see if you should mail, fax or hand in the request in person.

For children under the age of 18, a legal guardian must sign the form to have their records released.

What happens if my current physician moves, retires or passes away?

If your doctor has relocated, retired or even passed away, in most cases your medical records will still be available at his or her previous practice, as long as it is still in operation. You should request your medical records from this practice. If another practice bought out your doctor's practice, you should still be able to obtain your records at this location.

If your doctor's practice closes and is no longer operating, you can contact your local or state medical society to find out where the medical records are being stored - you will then need to follow specified protocol for obtaining a copy of these records.

Photo by: Stockimages (Freedigitalphotos.net)

  Posted by Jenna Farmer on October 17, 2013

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