After you move, you will probably want to transfer your medical records to new healthcare providers. Whether you request to have your records sent to either yourself or your new physician, you should be aware of your patient rights before you transfer your medical records.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to protect insurance coverage and standardize the electronic transmission of medical records. Through HIPAA, Congress also wanted to address consumers' concerns about the "privacy and security of personal health data" (www.privacyrights.org). Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996, HIPAA is divided into two different sections:
- Title 1 – Under federal law, you have some health insurance protection for you and your family members. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website, title 1 of HIPAA "regulates the availability and breadth of group health plans and certain individual health insurance polices." (www.privacyrights.org)
- Title 2 – Based on consumers' concerns about protecting their health information, title 2 of HIPAA creates rules for standardizing how medical information will be distributed. Implementing standards for how medical data should be transmitted was accomplished through five rules:
- The Privacy Rule
- The Transactions and Code Sets Rule
- The Security Rule
- The Unique Identifiers Rule
- The Enforcement Rule
The Privacy Rule
The Privacy Rule has the most relevance for individuals who want to transfer their medical records to different medical providers.
Every state can establish laws that give you more privacy, but it cannot take away the rights given to you by HIPAA. The Act gives everyone in the U.S. the, "right to see, copy, and request to amend their own medical records" (www.privacyrights.org).
Even though the Privacy Rule allows you to see your own records, your previous medical provider may still require that you sign a medical release to transfer your records.
TIP: To find out which privacy laws your state has adopted, visit the website and select the tab for State Law.
Requesting your medical records
The guidelines set forth through HIPAA, in conjunction with any medical release forms that you have or haven't signed, can influence your ability to transfer your medical records. Your previous medical provider should be able to e-mail, fax, or mail a medical release form if you haven't already signed one.
Some medical providers require patients to sign a release form if they want to transfer their medical records. Since most transfer requests need to be made by telephone, you should speak to your old medical provider and ask them the following questions:
- Will you transfer my records to my new medical provider?
- Will you charge a fee for sending my records to me or my current medical provider?
- Do I need to sign a medical record release form, or have I already signed a release?
Your previous medical provider is not permitted to charge you a fee for sending your medical records to a new healthcare specialist. It is common, however, for them to charge a fee when sending the records to you directly.
HIPAA will help regulate how much you can be charged for transferring medical records, and it is typically a nominal fee. In the event that your previous medical provider initially denies your transfer request, you'll know your patient rights to get your medical records to your new healthcare specialists.
TIP: If your insurance hasn't changed after you've moved, then you might be able to locate a medical provider on your insurance provider's website. Another way to locate a medical provider in your area is to ask your previous doctor, dentist, physical therapist, etc. for a referral.
Photo by: Stockimages (Freedigitalphotos.net)