Many patients and their care partners struggle to gather medical records when their doctor’s practice closes. This can lead to significant uncertainty, stress, and frustration for all concerned.
Patients who need to obtain copies of their medical records may be able to access them if they follow some simple steps.
1. Contact the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
When a doctor’s practice closes, it is important for patients to know how to get their medical records. This is especially true when the practice is independent or has not been purchased by a larger physician group.
When requesting records, patients should start with their former doctors’ offices and ask the receptionist or office staff for assistance. If they are unable to help, the patient may contact their insurance company for assistance.
The health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA) requires that physicians provide their patients with a copy of their medical records upon request. However, HIPAA does not require physicians to retain those medical records for any specific period of time.
Fortunately, most medical practices have electronic health records systems that store information for patients and make them available through secure online portals. This allows patients to easily access their records on their own devices and simplify their doctor-patient communication.
2. Contact the Office of the Attorney General
In many states, physicians are required to notify patients of their intent to close the practice. This notification should include a notice of how to obtain medical records from the physician or custodial records provider.
However, the state’s guidelines on notification vary significantly. Some states offer no guidance at all, while others provide only general guidelines and no specific steps for closing a practice.
As a result, physicians are sometimes left to choose the best course of action to ensure their record retention meets their state’s requirements and avoid litigation after the practice is closed.
Some states have specific record retention laws, such as Indiana’s requirement that physician records be retained for seven years after the last patient visit. During the retention period, physicians must also notify patients that they may still request their medical records.
3. Contact the Office of the Secretary of State
If an individual’s doctor or practice has closed and they cannot find their medical records, they should consider getting in touch with the office’s designated record custodian. The new staff at the office may know where the records are stored.
A state medical association can also be a helpful resource in this situation. Many associations have a records custodian that they can contact if a patient’s records are not located at the current practice location.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule allows qualified individuals to request medical records. This includes a patient’s family member or guardian, an attorney representing the patient, or a committee appointed by the patient to represent the patient’s needs.
To comply with state law, physicians should notify patients (and other qualifying individuals) of their medical record retention requirements. Additionally, they should send a notice to business and contracted associates (e.g., third-party payers and managed care organizations). They should review their participation agreements to determine continuation-of-care obligations.
4. Contact the Office of the Secretary of Defense
Patients should get copies of their medical records as soon as possible after a doctor closes their practice. This will ensure that there is no chance of the records being lost or destroyed during this time.
Medical records include doctor’s notes, billing information, and other health data. Often, these records can help patients and care partners understand their health condition and treatment plan.
Many states have different retention laws for various types of medical records. If you’re closing a practice, you will want to comply with your state’s record retention law.
You will also want to make sure that all of your patient’s records are properly stored until you can transfer them to the custodial records provider. This can be a daunting task, especially if you have thousands of records to sort through and organize into individual files.
To comply with HIPAA, you will need to enclose a form that allows a patient or their new provider to obtain a copy of the records. It should contain an Authorization to Disclose Protected Health Information form and be signed by the patient.