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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    9

    Default Can Doctor's Office Refuse to Let Me See Letters from Specialists in My Medical File

    My question involves medical malpractice in the state of: California

    For the past couple weeks, I've put in several requests to my internist's office to review my medical file under the HIPAA Rule & have been repeatedly denied. Today, my husband & I spoke with the office manager who said she doesn't have the staff to sit with me while I review my file. So, I requested copies of my doctor's notes & correspondence from the specialists to whom my internist had referred me. The office manager claimed I am not entitled to to see or get copies of any letters from specialists even though they are in my file. The specialists include a gastroenterologist, urologist, cardiologist, etc. None have anything to do with mental health. Is the doctor's office legally permitted to keep this information from the patient? If I do have a right to these documents, how do I obtain copies? Is it worth speaking to an attorney?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    South-Central Cali
    Posts
    1,276

    Default Re: Can Doctor's Office Refuse to Let Me See Letters from Specialists in My Medical F

    Forget about HIPAA, the California PAHRA (Patient Access to Health Records Act, Health and Safety Code §123100, et seq.) has much stronger protections. With a written request, you MUST be allowed to inspect or provided copies of within 15 days (copying charges of 25-50c/page may apply). Violation of these requirements by a doctor is considered unprofessional conduct and may be reported to the CA medical board (a doctor does NOT WANT this); they may also be guilty of an infraction and be fined $100. You are free to sue them and will probably be awarded attorneys' fees if your claim is meritorious.

    Stop calling them. Send a nice letter, certified mail with return receipt, that you want to view and/or get copies of your entire medical file. Let the doctor's office know that in addition to HIPAA, California's PAHRA requires them to comply with the (see above requirements). If they do not comply, let them know that you will (in descending order of danger):

    • Immediately file a complaint with the Medical Board of California for unprofessional conduct in denying access to records.
    • File suit (in practice this can get expensive for you though, unless/until you win the case and get fees back)
    • File a complaint with the California Office of Health Information Integrity


    Which of the above "threats" you want to include depends on if you want to continue seeing this doctor in the future. Note also that the medical board of CA says you should call them -- they may be able to help you gain access to your records.

    Please let us know if you need more guidance, have questions about the law, etc.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    supratentorial region
    Posts
    818

    Default Re: Can Doctor's Office Refuse to Let Me See Letters from Specialists in My Medical F

    The office manager claimed I am not entitled to to see or get copies of any letters from specialists even though they are in my file.
    S/he is wrong. If the correspondence is part of your medical record, you are entitled to copies. As stated above, put your request in writing via certified mail (no threat is necessary). Expect to receive a bill for the copying/administrative fee. They have 15 days from the date of receipt of payment to prepare for pick up or mail your copies.

    IF you do not receive the copies within that time, THEN you should file a complaint.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Can Doctor's Office Refuse to Let Me See Letters from Specialists in My Medical F

    Thank you very much for the information. Yes, we are familiar with the California as well as the federal laws. However, when my husband and I spoke with the office manager at the doctor's office, we pointed out that we have a right to inspect the file. But she was insistent that it was an either/or situation and she was offering to make copies. We also told her that we have a right to copies of my ENTIRE file but, again, she claimed I had to get any correspondence from the individual specialists. No matter what we said, she wouldn't budge. Now, we're wondering whether they're trying to hide something, especially since we were given the runaround for so many days and the office manager was not very nice. The reason we wanted to see the file is because I'm having a problem with one of the specialists to whom my internist referred me and that doctor won't let me see my file either or make copies.

    Is filing a complaint with the Medical Board and/or the California Office off Health Information Integrity really helpful? Can they make the doctor's office comply? Also, will an attorney take on such a small case?

    Again, thank you for your insights.

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