The director of the Office for Civil Rights, Leon Rodriguez, issued a memo reminder to patients that they have a fundamental right to access their health information.

The memo, which included a list of resources and tips for accessing health information, was released in conjunction with the White House Patient Access to Health Data Summit held June 4.

As the primary enforcer of health information privacy and security laws like HIPAA, OCR wanted to encourage patients the take a more active role in their healthcare by accessing and using their health records, Rodriquez said in the memo.

Some patients still face barriers to accessing their health records, either because they don’t understand their rights or are blocked by providers who misunderstand the access rights granted by HIPAA, Rodriquez said in a Government Health IT article. Patients are encouraged to print out the OCR memo and bring it to their healthcare providers when requesting records.

“We’re hearing more and more about widespread issues, patients being denied or obstructed in their access to their records,” Rodriquez said to Government Health IT. “So we thought it was important to arm patients with something very easy to bring to their providers to say, in fact, the law requires you to give me my records, but for certain exceptions.”

Patients are also encouraged to carefully read the notice of privacy practices document they receive from their healthcare providers and health plans to get a better sense of their information rights and the laws safeguarding that information.

“Health information is critical to all patients so that they can track their progress through wellness programs, monitor chronic conditions, communicate with their treatment teams, and adhere to their important treatment plans,” Rodriquez said in the memo. “Important tools like Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Personal Health Records (PHRs) will make it easier, safer, and faster for you to get access to your health information and stay engaged.”

The memo reminded patients they have the right to:

  • Ask to see and get a copy of their health records from most doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers such as pharmacies, nursing homes, and health plans
  • Get a copy of their record in either paper or electronic form, given the patient’s plan or provider has electronic health record capabilities

In addition to the memo, OCR released a video “The Right to Access and Correct Your Health Information,” which is posted below.
“We hope and encourage all consumers will use their health information – including electronic health records and personal health records – to more effectively manage their health and wellness and that of their families,” Rodriquez said in the memo.