YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Getting access to your medical records

July 27, 2009|Lisa Zamosky

If, like Rose Cohen, you have trouble accessing your medical records, there are steps you can take to remedy the situation.

First, contact your state medical board, says Joy Pritts, associate professor and director of the Center on Medical Records Rights and Privacy at Georgetown University.

Many states have informal procedures that facilitate a quick resolution. In California, you can find information about the complaint process handled by the California Medical Board on the consumer portion of its website,

Generally, the board recommends the following process:

Send a request for your medical records in writing -- by certified mail -- to your physician. Cite the California Health & Safety Code, Section 123100, which establishes a patient's right to see and receive copies of his or her medical records. Your doctor has 15 days from the time he or she receives your request to produce copies or 10 days to prepare a detailed summary of your medical record. He or she can take up to 30 days to produce a summary, but you have to be told if more than 10 days is needed.

If the certified letter fails to yield results, a complaint can be filed with the medical board. You can initiate a complaint by calling (800) 633-2322 or (916) 263-2424 or by downloading the form on its website and mailing it to the address listed at the top.

If it determines your rights have been violated, the medical board will send a letter to your doctor explaining the situation and what is required of him or her by law. The agency claims an 80% compliance rate with this process.

Still, if the doctor fails to comply with the law, the board can fine him or her anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the situation and doctor's complaint history. According to board spokeswoman Candis Cohen, this becomes public record and appears on the doctor's profile on the medical board's website.

If all else fails, you have the right under California law to sue in a California Superior Court to obtain your medical record.

Outside of California, consumers who have been unsuccessful resolving their dispute through their state medical board can initiate a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department Health and Human Services, either through the national or regional office.

Information on how to file a complaint and forms with which to do so are available online at the department's website,

With HHS, complaints have to be filed within 180 days of the incident.

-- Lisa Zamosky

Los Angeles Times Articles