Typically, individuals seeking medical records start by asking their current doctor for assistance. They can also contact a health information exchange (HIE) in their area for more help.
Physicians must follow state laws on retaining and providing patient medical records when closing their practice. This includes proper notice and time limits for transferring patients’ records.
Contact the Office of the State Medical Board
Many states have specific guidelines that physicians must follow in order to close a practice and provide access to patients for their medical records. These rules generally require that practitioners contact and/or notify patients that the office will be closing and provide instructions for obtaining copies of their records.
If a physician or clinic does not comply with the applicable law, this can be a violation of HIPAA privacy rules. If you find that a physician has closed his or her office without providing access to your medical records, you can file a complaint with the state medical board.
Another option for getting your medical records is to contact the hospital where your doctor used to work. The hospital likely knows where your doctor’s old files are being stored and can help you track them down.
Contact the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health Professions receives complaints about Virginia healthcare practitioners who may have violated a regulation or law. Its website contains information about all 13 of the state’s licensing and regulatory boards, including their contact information and disciplinary process.
Individuals who need medical records from a closed practice should contact the new doctor or health care professional in question to request them. Providers are allowed to charge for copies of these records, but in most cases this is less than a dollar per page.
The person requesting the records should fill out a release form and sign it. Indigent patients are eligible for free copies, but proof of indigence must be provided with the request. Indigent individuals include those with a verified income below the federal poverty level and those receiving state or social security benefits. The practitioner owns the records, and under Virginia Code SS 32.1-127.1:03 they are required to give patients access to them.
Contact the Office of the Attorney General
Typically, health care providers must fulfill records requests within 30 days. However, for VA or TRICARE patients, it may take up to 60 days.
State laws set medical record retention requirements for physicians and often require that they take particular steps (such as notifying patients) before or upon the closure of a practice. However, when a physician closes or relocates without selling or passing on records to another practice, it can create problems for patients.
Depending on the situation, individuals can contact the office of the attorney general to see what options they have for accessing their medical records. In addition, they can try to determine whether the doctor has a social media presence and respectfully direct message them for more information. If all other avenues are exhausted, they can file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights.
Contact the Office of the Secretary of Defense
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has a website that allows veterans to search for healthcare providers and medical records. The website also includes a directory of medical facilities, including VA health care centers. If a veteran is not able to find a doctor in the directory, they can contact the office and request a copy of their medical records.
Physicians who close their practices are required by law to notify patients of how they can obtain their medical records. The notification should include a clear description of how to contact the practice for the records. In addition, it should provide patients with a deadline to request the records, and offer them the opportunity to designate a new provider who can receive the copies.
In most states, physicians have 30 to 60 days to fulfill requests. However, many physicians will not respond to a patient’s request for medical records within the timeframe required by state law.