Accessing Medical Records for Others: It's Not As Simple As You Think

posted on February 16, 2017 by Willingham & Cote

by Lee B. Reimann, Estate & Gifts

It was a lovely fall day, the kind that reminds one why we live in Michigan.  My husband agreed to pick up x-rays for me at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing over his lunch hour. When he arrived at the medical records window, the clerk asked him if he had written authorization from me to get the x-rays.  He did not.  He did not know that x-rays, along with other medical records, medical bills, and conversations with doctors and nurses, are considered “confidential medical information.”  These types of information can only be released to the patient or an authorized representative, and this approval must be done in writing.

While many people have medical powers of attorney, these documents are only used if a patient cannot make decisions for herself.  In the situation with my husband at Sparrow, a medical power of attorney would not have been appropriate, as I was medically fine, just busy.  What my husband in fact needed that day was a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) waiver.  We have provided a link to a blank document below that you can download and use. 

How did this story end?  I had to go to Sparrow myself (complete with broken ankle) to pick up my x-rays.  Please learn from my mistake and complete your form today!


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