A Patient's Right to Information

Medical records are important documents that contain a patient's medical history of vaccinations, illnesses, surgeries, hospital stays and other medical treatments. The information contained in their records may assist doctors and other health care providers in treating a person's future ailments and health conditions.

While medical records are vital sources of information, the personal nature of such information also raises the importance of confidentiality and privacy of these records.

Mississippi law states that medical records are the property of the entity that produced them, like a doctor's office, hospital, or after hours clinic. The patient, however, has the right to inspect and obtain a copy of the records during regular business hours. Medical records held by a federal or state agency are also obtainable.

When contacting your doctor or other medical personnel about reviewing your medical records, you will most likely have to sign a specific consent form or release. Doctors and other health care providers may also charge a processing fee for production of the medical report. If you would like a copy of your records, the health care provider may charge a reasonable fee to cover photocopying and production costs. Always inquire about such costs in advance.

Records held by a state or federal agency should be accessible through the 1983 Mississippi Public Records Act for state agencies or the Freedom of Information Act for federal agencies. A letter signed by you requesting the records and referring to the appropriate legislation should suffice, although there may be copying costs and processing fees. Again, you should inquire in advance about these costs.

A health care provider may withhold your medical records from you if he objectively believes releasing such information would be detrimental to your health. The reasons for refusing to provide the records must be provided, preferably in writing, to the patient asking for the records.

If a third party, like an insurance company, wants access to your medical records, you must give permission for their release. This usually requires a written consent form or release signed by you. Never sign this type of release without carefully reading the consent form and release. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the document before signing.