The New York Times reported that in new guidelines, the Obama administration says doctors and hospitals cannot require patients to state a reason for requesting their records, and cannot deny access out of a general concern that patients might be upset by the information. The Obama administration is making it easier for patients to get access to their own medical records, telling doctors and hospitals that in most cases they must provide copies of these records within 30 days of receiving a request. Federal officials say they receive large numbers of complaints from consumers frustrated in trying to exercise their right to obtain copies of their own medical records.
Under the new guidelines, a health care provider cannot require patients to pick up their records in person if they ask that the records be sent by mail or email. A health care provider cannot deny a request for access to health information because a patient has failed to pay medical bills. A doctor or a hospital may charge a fee to cover the cost of copying, but cannot charge for the cost of searching for data and retrieving it.