To find old medical records, contact the hospital where the patient had treatment, according to About.com. Depending on the state, hospitals must hold medical records for a minimum of six years for adults, and they must hold children's medical records for three to 10 years beyond the age of 18 or 21. To access lab results, the patient must contact the provider, not the lab.
Only the patient, guardian or parent of the patient may request medical records, explains About.com. If not the patient, guardian or parent, the requester must have written permission from the patient, which allows advocates or caregivers to access patient records. Providers must also share self-created records, such as notes, or any copies of test results. They must share information from other doctors if this information was part of a diagnosis.
There are circumstances where medical records are not available, such as when the patient wants mental health records, states About.com. Another reason medical records may not be available is if the doctor believes that seeing the records may endanger the physical health of the patient; however, the doctor must believe that physical harm may come from seeing the records and not simply be upsetting to the patient. If the doctor refuses to provide the records, he must provide a refusal in writing.