AMA: 10 things to know about patient access to digital health records

The American Medical Association recently released a digital playbook to help physician practices navigate challenges associated with giving patients access to their electronic health information.

Under HIPAA, patients are guaranteed the right to access their medical records electronically. Here are 10 things for physician practices to know to help patients access their medical records, based on the AMA's Patient Records Electronic Access Playbook:

1. Patients have the right to view a copy of their medical and billing records.

2. Providing patients with electronic access to their health records should be available for little or no cost.

3. Patients can obtain copies of their health records through means other than the patient portal.

4. Patients must fill out a request form to obtain a copy of their medical information.

5. Practices cannot deny a patient's access to their medical records even if the practice believes access is not in the patient's best interest.

6. If properly warned of the risk of unauthorized access, patients can receive their medical records through unencrypted email.

7. Third parties must complete a HIPAA-compliant authorization form if a patient medical record request comes from them but does not appear ordered at the patient's discretion.

8. Patients have the right to have their practice send a copy of their medical records to third parties.

9. Practices should let their patients know when they've received their record request and, if possible, provide an estimated timeline for when they can anticipate receiving the records. 

10. Practices should try to work with patients' family members or caregiver who are handling a patient's medical record requests because often patients are sick and need help making the request.

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