Did You Know? You Might Not Own Your Health Records


I would think that I own my records, because all the information is about me, and I pay the clinician to write up a diagnosis and treatment plan. But a clinician is thinking, "I examined a patient, and applied my expertise to author a diagnoses and treatment plan".  So who owns my medical records?

It actually depends on the state you live in.

Ownership of health records

In some states there is no law identifying ownership, and in others, the law clearly states that the physician or the hospital owns your records. As it turns out, only in New Hampshire does a patient own the record. Isn’t that wild?

The good news is that HIPAA guarantees your right to access all your records, regardless of ownership. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted by the United States Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. This law ensures your health records are treated as private in addition to enacting guidelines for group health plans and continued health insurance coverage when switching or losing a job.

HIPAA updates over the years also guarantee you the right to a copy of your health records. If your healthcare provider uses a certified EHR (or electronic health record), you can get your records in electronic format to store for yourself and import into a personal health application.

Patient portals and electronic health records

It’s been a slow, slow, slow process, but the healthcare industry is moving their technology into the future. While some physicians still take physical notes, most providers enter information into an electronic health record.  With the records going online, these systems make it easier for patients to access their own data via patient portals. The problem with patient portals is that the information isn’t organized in a way that the average patient can actually understand it.

Kirstan Vandersluis