How to Request Medical Records from a Nursing Home

When your loved one suffers from an injury due to abuse or neglect in a nursing home, their medical records could be used to strengthen their compensation claim. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you request a resident’s medical records and prevent the nursing home from stalling the process.

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Nursing Home Justice Helps Protect Your Rights

If you suspect abuse, you should contact a nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely valuable evidence—like your loved one’s medical records—will disappear or become harder to obtain.

Founding attorney Mac Hester has over 35 years of legal experience and will ensure you gather the evidence you need to support a claim for compensation.

Contact attorney Mac Hester with Nursing Home Justice today – (970) 493-1866

Why Should You Request Your Loved One’s Medical Records?

Like any personal injury case, medical records are essential evidence to strengthen your claim. If you claim your loved one was injured in a nursing home, medical records could prove they spent time in the hospital being treated for their injuries.

In cases where the resident was not directly abused, you could use medical records to show how your loved one’s health has declined during their time at the nursing home. Whatever your case may be, you must know how to obtain these medical documents to ensure your loved one recovers from their injuries.   

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Can Family Members Access Medical Records?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act established national standards to prevent the disclosure of patient health information without their consent. While this safeguards a nursing home resident’s privacy and allows them to access their own protected health information (PHI), it creates a barrier for loved ones who wish to access this information to support a claim for compensation.

HIPAA states that only the resident or their personal representative outlined in a Power of Attorney form can access the resident’s PHI. However, there are provisions stating that nursing homes are permitted, but not required, to share PHI with an individual involved in the resident’s care or payment for care. The nursing home may also disclose the PHI of a deceased individual if doing so doesn’t go against any prior expressed preferences by the decedent.

If you’re not the resident’s personal representative, you must make a written request for their PHI, sign that request, and identify the designated person and where to send the PHI. The nursing home can only disclose information relevant to your involvement in the resident’s care or payment of care.

How Long Are Medical Records Kept After Death?

If your loved one has passed away, you must understand how long you have to obtain their medical records. Generally, Colorado doctors must keep an individual’s medical records for at least seven years after their last visit, regardless of whether they are deceased or alive.

How to Initiate the Request Process

HIPAA outlines several steps you must take to obtain a loved one’s medical records, which include the following:

Make Your Initial Request

You might be required to request a loved one’s PHI in multiple ways, depending on the institution you’re requesting the information from. Nursing homes may have a designated form where an individual can request a resident’s PHI. Nursing homes can require you to use this form if it doesn’t unreasonably delay you from accessing health information. In other cases, the nursing home might need you to request access in writing, via email, or an online portal.

Wait for Identity Verification

Before the nursing home grants your request, they must verify your identity to determine whether you are the resident’s personal representative or another family member. The nursing home could use several methods to verify your identity if they don’t prolong the process unnecessarily.

The nursing home’s verification methods ultimately depend on how you made your initial request. For example, if you made your request through an online portal, the nursing home might have required you to provide them with general information to confirm your identity.

The Nursing Home Grants You Access

After the nursing home verifies your identity, they have 30 days to give you access to your loved one’s PHI. Although the nursing home has 30 days, they should provide you access as soon as possible. If the nursing home fails to meet this deadline, they can extend it by 30 days.

They can only do this once and must meet the extended deadline, or they could be penalized. Remember that the time it takes to receive access also depends on your requested format. For example, receiving a hard copy by mail may take longer than receiving an instantaneous electronic medical record.

Potential Challenges with Requesting Medical Records

If you request medical information in compliance with federal law, the nursing home should provide you with access promptly. However, there are cases where your request could be denied, or other obstacles get in your way.

What Happens if Your Request is Denied? 

If the nursing home denies your request, you could have the denial reviewed by a licensed healthcare professional. If this third-party reviewer finds that the following statements are true, they may approve the decision to refuse your request:

  • Your request is reasonably likely to endanger your loved one’s life or physical safety
  • Your request is reasonably likely to cause substantial harm to your loved one
  • Access to a personal representative is reasonably likely to cause harm to your loved one or another individual

How Much Does it Cost to Request Medical Records?

You might be charged for the labor and supplies involved with fulfilling your request. However, the nursing home is not allowed to charge you for costs associated with the following:

  • Verification
  • Documentation
  • Searching for the PHI
  • Maintaining systems
  • Storage
  • Infrastructure

Unreasonable Measures that Could Stall the Process

It’s essential to be aware of any unreasonable measures a nursing home might use when requesting access to your loved one’s health information. For example, the nursing home might only allow you to request a resident’s PHI by mailing your written request. Nursing homes must provide you with multiple methods for requesting health information and shouldn’t enforce unreasonable requirements.

How Nursing Home Justice Can Help You

Nursing homes and their parent companies may make it very difficult for you to obtain medical records. They might intentionally stall the process or otherwise withhold this information from you. Our nursing home lawyers will help you with every step of the request process and ensure you obtain your loved one’s health information. Here’s how we’ll help you if your loved one was abused or neglected in a nursing home:

  • We’ll Meet & Discuss Your CaseAttorney Mac Hester will sit down with you to hear your story and explain your next steps
  • We’ll Obtain Medical Records – In addition to gathering other evidence, we will help you obtain your loved one’s medical records to prove how they were injured.
  • We’ll Help You Recover Financial Compensation – Once we evaluate your damages, we will fight for total and fair compensation to cover all your short and long-term expenses.