Dear Mr. Premack: I’ve had a difficult time communicating with my
doctor. He has been treating me for a serious heart condition, but I feel
neglected and ignored. I’ve decided to go to a different doctor, but their
front office tells me that I’ll need to bring all my medical records to
the first appointment. Since the first doctor has been such a poor
communicator, can you tell me my legal rights in this situation so I’ll
know what I can insist be done? – R. C.
The Texas Occupations Code
specifically authorizes patients to obtain copies of their medical
records. You can either ask for a copy for your own use, or ask that a
copy be supplied to another doctor, a lawyer, or to another person of your
choosing. If you are too ill to request the records yourself, then your
agent appointed in your Medical Power of Attorney has legal authority to
request, review and receive your medical or hospital records.
Texas law requires the doctor to release copies of your medical records
when you submit a written request. In the written request, you must tell
the doctor exactly which records you want. You must give a reason for the
release, and must identify the person to whom the information is to be
To be certain the doctor gets your written request, you
can send it by certified mail or you can hand deliver it to your doctor.
The doctor does not have to honor a verbal request, but must honor your
written request within 15 days of receipt. The only valid reason the
doctor may have for refusing to release your records is if the doctor
determines that access to the information would be harmful to your
physical, mental, or emotional health.
Can the doctor legally
charge you for the copies? Yes. According to the Texas Board of Medical
Examiners' rules, the doctor can charge a “reasonable cost-based fee,”
which the Board sets as "no more than $25 for the first twenty pages and
50¢ per page for every copy thereafter.” Copies of films (x-rays) or other
static diagnostic imaging studies (MRIs) can cost up to $8 per copy. The
doctor can legally require that costs be paid prior to release of the
The information contained in your medical records
must be released at your re-quest, but the actual files belong to your
doctor. Providing copies allows you to have the information, while
allowing the originating doctor to keep the actual records. Additionally,
most doctors want to keep records on their patients to protect themselves
if a patient decides to sue the doctor at some future date.
are some tips to follow when you need to request copies of medical records
from your physician:
Submit your request in writing along with a check for the fee the doctor’s
office requests. To get an estimate of the fee, start with a phone call to
the doctor’s office.
Remember to provide a complete address and zip code for the location where
you wish to have the records sent.
If you have married or otherwise changed your name, remember to provide
the former name as it appeared in your medical records.
If your name is fairly common (“Robert Rodriguez” appears in the San
Antonio phonebook 64 times and “Mary Smith” appears in the Houston phone
book 71 times) then include with your request your date of birth or your
social security number to ensure proper identification.