… A Priority for Your Medical Malpractice Case File
Medical records are a necessary part of evaluating a case to determine if medical malpractice has occurred. When a client retains The Brad Hendricks Law Firm, obtaining pertinent records is a part of our investigation. Sometimes patients may want to obtain records for other purposes. Records may contain information that the provider has not shared with the patient. Sometimes medical records contain erroneous information. Also, it is helpful to have copies of medical records to share with new medical providers.
So how do you request your medical records? Generally this involves signing a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization and specifying the records that are being requested. Contact your medical provider and ask to speak with the person who oversees patient medical records (otherwise known as the record custodian). The medical record custodian can either mail or e-mail you an authorization, or you can go by the provider’s office and sign the authorization. Hospitals will have a medical records department. If you appear in person and sign an authorization, do not expect to receive a copy of your records immediately. Hospitals frequently contract with independent companies who provide copies of records. Rarely do hospitals provide records directly through their medical records department. It may take two to four weeks to obtain copies of your records.
Generally, patients have a right to a copy of their records (with some exception as to psychiatric records). If a physician refuses to provide you with a copy of your records, contact the medical board for your state. Due to privacy laws, persons other than the patient cannot obtain records unless the patient has provided permission by means of a signed authorization. If the patient is unable to sign an authorization, an existing power of attorney or living will may allow the appointed person to obtain records. Authorizations signed by parents of minor children will permit them to retrieve copies of their child’s medical records. If a patient is deceased, the next of kin may be able to obtain medical records depending on the policy of the medical provider and state law. Generally, providers are not required to provide records to next of kin. In some circumstances, a full or limited estate (probate) must be initiated and an administrator or personal representative be appointed by the court with the authority to obtain medical records.
Medical records are generally not provided for free, though with the implementation of electronic records the ability to provide a CD containing PDF copies of records might reduce the cost of supplying records. When the medical provider’s record custodian is contacted, it is important to inquire as to the cost for the records (which may involve a retrieval fee as well as a per page cost). Some states, such as Arkansas, have limitations on the amount a medical provider can charge for copying records. Sometimes records can be massive, especially when the patient spent a prolonged period of time in the hospital. If the cost of records is an issue, requesting abbreviated records can reduce the number of copies and thus expense. Key records from a hospital normally include the “History and Physical,” “Discharge Summary,” “Death Summary” (if applicable), “Operative Reports” (if applicable), “X-ray, MRI, and CT reports,” and “Consultation Reports.” If there are issues concerning medications, the medication records should be requested. If you suspect medical malpractice, do not let the cost of medical records hold you up. Due to time limitations on filing lawsuits (statutes of limitation), you should not delay in contacting an attorney.
The Brad Hendricks Law Firm would be glad to provide advice as to obtaining medical records, what records to request, and to generally discuss whether it would be better to turn the “record gathering” function over to a qualified team of lawyers and support personnel. For legal help you can count on, call The Brad Hendricks Law Firm at (501) 221-0444 or toll-free at (800) 603-5100. You may also provide information by completing the contact form on this page.