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How to get a copy of your health records

(NC) Do you have a copy of your own health files? If not, you are entitled to them.

Think about the other key records in your life, and where that information resides. Banks and lawyers have your financial and legal documents on file, but you probably have copies as well. It should be the same with medical records and yet many of us wonder who owns those files, and if they would be difficult to retrieve.

“The health care professional or facility owns the record, but the information belongs to you,” says Linda Gough, president of the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario (FHRCO). FHRCO includes 26 regulatory colleges (www.regulatedhealthprofessions.on.ca), which hold nearly 300,000 member professionals accountable for their conduct and practice.

Why access a record? You may want to hold onto that information for easy reference, share the details with other family members, or take the time to review the material in the privacy of your home. Or you may be switching care providers, and need to forward the information.

In some cases, you may be concerned about your care, or be involved in a dispute around it. Having the record lets you confirm the accuracy of the information, check timelines, or prepare for legal proceedings.

As Gough explains, the custodian of the paper or electronic health care record – whoever holds it – has to forward the information to you upon request.

When you see a health care professional, you essentially give consent to collect and use your health information for health care purposes only. So these professionals can, for instance, share reports or summaries of your treatment with other members of a health care team.

You can request that a copy of your record be released to a lawyer, insurance company or other third party. However, the custodians of your personal health information can't release that record to anyone else without your specific agreement. You may be charged a reasonable fee to reflect the cost of preparing and forwarding the material.

There are certain exceptions where disclosure by a health care professional is mandatory, e.g. reporting that a child may be in danger to the Children's Aid Society, or legal proceedings (when a summons, subpoena or court order requests patient records).

Individuals expect full access to all sorts of records containing vital personal information, and that includes health. “Remember, you have the right to view or get a copy of your records,” says FHRCO's Gough, “and that can be an important part of taking charge of your health.”

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