Medical records are an important part of your health care. These records are a written history of your health condition and treatment. They are used by doctors, hospitals, health care clinics, and other health care professionals and facilities to treat you.
A federal law called the HIPAA Privacy Rule gives you the right to see, get a copy of, and amend (correct) your medical record by adding information to it. (HIPAA stands for the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.") West Virginia laws also give you rights with respect to your medical record.
About This Guide
This guide is intended to help you understand how to see, get a copy of, and amend (correct) medical records from West Virginia health care providers who have to follow the HIPAA Privacy Rule. You can read guides about getting medical records from health care providers in other states at http://hpi.georgetown.edu/privacy/records.html.
This guide was designed so that you can read just the parts that interest you. For example, if you are interested in how much your provider can charge you for copying your medical record, you may want to focus on that part of the guide. We urge everyone to read "Who Is Covered by These Laws?" so that you can be sure the guide applies to your provider. Some basic information is repeated throughout the guide so that it is easily available to those who are reading only certain sections.
The rules explained in this guide only apply when you ask for your own medical record or when you ask for someone else’s medical record as their personal representative. These rules do not apply when you request that your health care provider give your medical record to someone else (such as another doctor or a lawyer).
This guide does not discuss mental health records or records about drug and substance abuse treatment. Section 6 of this guide lists some resources where you can find some information about these types of records.
Words to Know
Some of the words in this guide have a special meaning. In this guide "health care providers" or "providers" means doctors and hospitals and others who provide health care services (such as chiropractors, optometrists, and acupuncturists). Section 5 explains these and other words that are helpful to know. The words explained in Section 5 are in boldface print the first time they appear in each section of the guide.
Rather than use the awkward phrases "he, she, or it" and "his, her, or its" this guide uses "they" and "theirs" when referring to health care providers in a general way. Examples that use "he" or "she" are meant to refer to both genders.
The authors have made every attempt to assure that the information in this guide is accurate as of the date of publication. Many areas of the law can be interpreted more than one way. The authors have tried to interpret the law in a way that is consistent with protecting health care consumer rights. Others might interpret the law in another way.
This guide is only a summary. The rights and procedures described in this guide can change depending on the circumstances. The information in this guide may not apply to your particular situation.
This guide should not be used as a substitute for legal or other expert professional advice. The authors, Georgetown University, and the National Library of Medicine specifically disclaim any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use of any information in this guide.
This work was funded by grant G13LM8312 from the National Library of Medicine.
Sincere thanks to Jeffrey S. Crowley, MPH, Mila Kofman, JD and Kevin Lucia, JD for their input on early versions of the guide. A special thanks also to Donald Jones for his technical skill in transforming the guides from rough drafts to polished, final product. Their help was invaluable. Any mistakes, however, are the authors' own.