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Security, privacy, and access to information are hot-button issues these days. Much of the conversations center around national security and what degree of privacy and accessibility is acceptable for citizens. However, an important topic that is less talked-about are a person’s medical rights. What are my medical rights, and what information do I have access to?

The Importance of Medical Rights

Easy access to your personal health information is an incredibly important thing. No one is more invested in your health and well-being than yourself, so it is imperative that you have the ability to access your information, and the capacity to understand it all. Having control of your health information allows you to exercise control over decisions about your health. It also enables you to easily monitor any health conditions you may have, contribute information to research, and make sure there are no errors in your health records. Imagine going to a doctor and they prescribe a medication that you’re allergic to, because your records are not correct! It is essential that you’re able to easily read and track your health records.

Medical Rights Under the Law

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as HIPAA, is the federal law that protects the privacy and security of your health information. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, HIPAA Privacy Rule “provides individuals with a legal, enforceable right to see and receive copies upon request of the information in their medical and other health records maintained by their health care providers and health plans.”

The Privacy Rule mandates that health plans and health care providers must give access to protected health information (PHI) if a person requests it. This also gives individuals the right to give copies of their PHI to designated receivers, such as spouses or parents. The information covered under the Privacy Rule includes the following:

  1. Medical records and billing records
  2. Enrollment, payment, claims adjudication, and case/medical management records
  3. Records used to make healthcare decisions about individuals

Some examples of the above PHI include insurance information, lab test results, medical images like X-rays or MRI scans, clinical case notes, and disease management files.

Depending on your healthcare provider, you may be required to submit a written request for your PHI. Many providers and doctors, however, use electronic portal systems where you can pull up your medical records online or request them electronically. Additionally, if you do not feel comfortable requesting your own records, you can ask your physician to request them for you. For instance, if you feel uncomfortable or unsure requesting for a copy of your hearing test, ask your doctor to get the copy for you instead.

What’s NOT Included In Your Medical Rights

There are a few exceptions to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Records that are used for business decisions, rather than decisions about individual healthcare, are not accessible to patients under HIPAA. For example, a patient cannot request and gain access to their doctor’s performance evaluations, or view a hospital’s peer review files. In addition, individuals do not have access to psychotherapy notes from a mental healthcare provider. Information compiled in anticipation or during a lawsuit or trial are also excluded from the Privacy Rule and cannot be accessed.

It’s incredible important to know your medical rights, and understand that you have the right to access YOUR medical information. Use these rights to empower yourself and make the best healthcare decisions for your life!

By: Elena McPhillips