Step 6: Obtaining your medical records
So, you’ve finished treating for your injury. Now, how do you get those medical records from the hospital and your other treatment facilities? Every place is different. Most facilities use medical records request forms exclusive to their facility. To find out the type of documentation you need, call the facility where you treated and ask for the medical records department. The staff who work in the medical records department will guide you through the process of getting your medical records. Some facilities will require you to complete medical record request forms while others will ask you to simply arrive in person with identification. If your treatment facility requires a letter requesting the records, you can send a HITECH request.
What is a HITECH request?
In 2009, Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act or the HITECH Act. In part, the HITECH Act requires medical facilities to produce patient charts (medical records) to patients electronically at a greatly reduced cost (the maximum charge being $20-30). Prior to the HITECH Act, requesting your medical records could cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars (depending on the extent and duration of your medical treatment). With the HITECH Act, copies of your patient chart typically cost between $6.50-$30.00. Please note, the act only covers facilities that have electronic medical records. If your treatment facility does not have electronic medical records, the HITECH Act will not apply and you will pay full price for a copy of your patient chart.
In order to benefit from the HITECH Act, you must follow a template that incorporates specific language/terms found within the Act itself. The HITECH records request is drafted as a letter from you to your treatment facility with information such as your name, date of birth, and email. The letter must use language that indicates it is in compliance with the HITECH Act. Not sure what that letter should look like? Click here to see a template form to use!
How Do I Pay for My Records?
Once you’ve sent your records requests to your treatment facilities, the language in the request requires that the facility provides your records within 30 days. You will more than likely receive a bill from the facility or a medical records company after your request is processed. When the bill is paid, you can usually download your records or have them sent to your email. If you have questions, call the facility or the medical records company to ask how the records will be sent. Some facilities/records companies may even mail paper copies.
Once you receive your records, take some time to read through them and familiarize yourself with them. Sometimes, we forget what happened when we first got injured due to all the chaos that was happening around us at the time. Your medical records will serve as documentation of your injuries and the records will serve as a base to write the medical narrative portion of your demand to the insurance company. We will cover writing your insurance demand a little later in this series.
Which Records Should I Get?
Make sure you obtain any and all records regarding your injury before proceeding. A good way to remember all the places where you treated for the injury is to write them down in one place. Sometimes, you might be referred to a doctor who will immediately refer you to physical therapy. In that case, you’ll need the records from the referring doctor’s office and the physical therapy records. It is always a good idea to request a copy of your records from your primary care physician as well.
In the next installment, we’re going to look at obtaining a lien regarding your treatment.