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How to Transfer Medical Records When You Move

August 10th, 2011 - 10:21 AM

If you're in the process of moving, you know there are a lot of details to handle aside from just transporting your household items from one home to another.  When you make a move to a new city or state, you have to be sure to transfer a number of important documents— one of those being medical records.  I don't know about you, but there's something about knowing how things work, and what to expect that makes me feel more at ease. Moving long-distance is definitely a time when it's good to feel at ease. So we've researched and determined the steps you can take to transfer your medical records when you move.

First, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (you know it as HIPAA) so you're aware of your rights as a patient.  HIPAA was designed to set a national standard for electronic transfers of health data. Note that even though the records contain private and personal information about you, technically they belong to the doctor.  In fact, before HIPAA, there was no federal law allowing patients access to their own medical records! Thanks to HIPAA, now everyone has the right to view their personal medical files. Remember that HIPPA doesn't give you the right to the original records— just copies of your records.  You can ask to see your medical records or ask for a summary of your medical file.

While HIPAA doesn't require a written request, many physicians require it and will have a form specifically for medical transfers. Ask your medical provider for their privacy policy— it should tell you how to request your medical records from their specific office.  And you should expect to pay a nominal fee for copies of your records. HIPAA allows a "reasonable, cost-based fee."  Make sure to ask your provider what that fee is and note that you should not be charged for time spent searching for records.  

If you're moving, this is one of the things you may want to take care of a month in advance.  While the amount of time it takes to get your records varies by state, you can usually expect to get them within 30 days. If it takes longer than 30 days, HIPAA requires that they give you a reason.  To get information about your rights to access under state laws, visit http://hpi.georgetown.edu/privacy/records.html

Moving is stressful, but you can make it easier by doing your homework on important issues like transferring important documents from one city or state to another.  When you find your new healthcare specialist, be sure you understand the process for record transfers from your former provider before ever beginning the process.  Knowing your patient rights and your medical providers transfer process will help take the headache out of this often-overlooked task.