Medical records are an essential part of a patient’s medical history. Each state varies in how it deals with access to such records so it is best to consult local counsel for advice. Generally, medical records are confidential and patients have access to their medical records provided certain procedures are properly followed. Besides patients, only authorized medical personnel (doctors, nurses, etc.) have access to such records. Patients can also give authorization to other individuals.
Medical records are protected by both federal and state law. In Illinois, records are classified as confidential under 735 ILCS 5/8-2101. Privileges can also extend to medical professionals such as psychologists. Waiver of confidentiality of such records can be done in writing by a patient or their physician. Some information is required to be included on the records such as any history of child abuse perpetrated or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Although STDs must be reported some records of diseases such as AIDS tests require special consent or a court order.
Federal regulators promulgated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Act provides for broad regulations concerning the protection of medical records. It also provides that an individual has the right to inspect their own records. States provide more detailed information to comply with federal requirements.
Those who have been injured in a personal injury context should be aware of their rights to their records. When injuries parties desire to bring suit, their attorney will have access to medical information. Note that STD information in Illinois needs additional levels of consent. Patients must also be aware that they are placing their health as the main issue in the case and some aspects of their health records may be discoverable by opposing parties. Essentially what injured parties are doing is waiving their right to the confidentiality of the records. Attorneys may be able to show evidence of other parts of the record in order to show an alternative theory to explain the injuries alleged. Injured parties should be aware that they will be completely exposed. In most instances, records will include those from a primary care physician, specialists, hospital, and after-care records. Even more so if the patient is alleging some sort of medical negligence or malpractice. Any interaction with that medical professional will be held up to scrutiny.
Most medical records can be obtained for a fee, paid to the institution. Some hospitals will outsource their records management, so the fee will need to be paid to the outsourcing company. Depending on the location of the records, it may take weeks or months for the records to be obtained.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.