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How To Request Copies of Your Medical Records in West Virginia

Published on Feb 13, 2024 at 3:55 pm in Personal Injury.

How to Request Copies of Your Medical Records in West Virginia

There can be any number of reasons a patient needs a copy of their medical records, from switching primary care providers or just wanting a copy to keep for their own files at home. Obtaining these records may be important to understanding test results or other details of your treatment plan. These records may also include doctor’s notes, medical test results, lab reports, and billing information, which might be needed at any given time.

According to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), all patients have the legal right to request and obtain their personal medical records or those of anyone they have guardianship or power of attorney over. Additionally, the West Virginia legislature, specifically WV Code 16-29-1, also has provisions for patients’ rights regarding acquiring medical records.

So, how can a patient request a copy of their medical records in the Mountain State? We’ll touch on what that process is as well as answer some frequently asked questions.

What the Request Process Looks Like

Whether you need a copy of your records just to keep on hand or you’re seeing a new doctor or specialist and they are requesting a copy, the medical records acquisition process is generally relatively simple.

The patient or their authorized representative fills out a form (usually provided by the doctor who needs the records), inputs their personal information and the reason for the request, and then signs the form. If a patient wants the records for their own personal use, as opposed to being the request of a doctor, it may be a slightly different form, but the patient’s personal information and signature are still required.

Once the form is completed, the patient then either faxes or emails the completed form to the doctor or facility that currently holds their patient records, or the new doctor or facility requesting the copy sends the form on behalf of the patient.

The healthcare provider currently holding the patient’s records must furnish a copy of the records to the patient (or whoever made the request, such as the patient’s new doctor) within 30 days of receiving the request. The copy may be provided by paper copy, a downloadable file, a memory device, a CD, or email.

Some doctor’s offices may require patients to call the office to make this request or do so in person, but more and more doctors and hospitals in West Virginia are moving to more electronic options for records requests. Facilities within the West Virginia University Medicine network have informed patients of their ability to obtain records online or through the MVU Medicine patient portal, MyWVUChart.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Patient Records

Although the overall process of obtaining your medical records is relatively straightforward, there is always other related information patients may want to know. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

How Much Will a Records Request Cost?

West Virginia Code 16-29-2 states that a provider may charge a patient for costs associated with pulling and providing that patient with a copy of their medical record. In most situations, those costs are minimal, and the Code states that the total cost shall not exceed: A search and handling fee of $20, a per page fee of 40 cents for paper copies, and postage if the patient requested the records be mailed to them. Additionally, the total cost should not be more than $150, including all fees, except for applicable taxes. When you speak with your doctor’s office, they should inform you what the cost is for obtaining a copy of your records.

How Long Are Health Care Records Retained?

The West Virginia Board of Medicine (WVBOM) explains that certain facilities or specialties should maintain patient records beyond all applicable statutes of limitations, which may apply to claims arising from any treatment provided to the patient.

In certain cases, such as patients with disabilities, patient records may be held for twenty years, and the Board recommends that doctor’s offices and medical facilities hold patient records for ten years from the last entry into the record or the last date of service, whichever is longer.

What If You Change Doctors or Your Doctor Retires?

Doctors leave practice all the time and patients also change doctors often. So, what happens if you need your records and your doctor has retired or you’ve moved to a new city and need to see a new doctor? If the practice hasn’t closed, your old doctor’s office should still have your records on file and be able to send those to you or directly to your new doctor. You will just need to reach out to them and go through the request process as mentioned previously in this blog.

Most practices will not close unexpectedly and most will also provide their patients with instructions on obtaining records, coordinating further medical care, etc. The American Medical Association (AMA) recommends that doctors notify their patients by letter at least 60 days before the office closes. That allows the patients to request and receive copies of their records before the closure date.

However, if your doctor’s office never informed you of the upcoming closure and you are trying to get a copy of your records, you may be out of luck. You might be able to contact individual facilities where you received scans and imaging or had tests or bloodwork done, but getting a full comprehensive patient record without access to your primary doctor can often pose a challenge.

Are There Any Exceptions to Obtaining Records?

Yes, there are two common exceptions to a patient’s right to request records.

If the patient is being treated for psychological or psychiatric problems, a summary of the patient record will be made available to either the patient or their authorized representative only after the termination of the patient’s treatment program.

The patients’ rights outlined in WV Code 16-29-1 do not apply if a patient’s records are subpoenaed or requested through court process, except for the associated fees outlined in WV Code 16-29-2.

As stated previously, obtaining a copy of your medical records in West Virginia is an easy process and every patient has the legal right to access their personal medical files. But if complications arise or if you’re seeking a copy of your patient records because of an accident you were involved in or an injury you’ve sustained, an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer from DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC may be able to help.