How Can Patients Access Their Own Hospital Information and Medical History?

Patients can access their own hospital information and medical history through Blue Button. If their doctors do not participate in Blue Button, patients can request their medical histories from their health care providers.

The Blue Button allows patients to retrieve and download their health records online. Blue Button is a way for patients to access and share their health information with caregivers, other doctors or family members. Patients can use Blue Button to make sure their medical information is accurate and complete.

Two types of electronic Personal Health Records, or PHRs, also allow patients to obtain and store their medical information. Patients can use Standalone PHRs to fill in their information and save it on their computers or the Internet. Patients can use Tethered, Connected PHRs to access their medical information through a secure portal.

Not all doctors participate in Blue Button. Patients who cannot access their health records through Blue Button or other online portals can ask their health care providers for the information. Health care providers are required to release patients’ medical records within specified time periods, but specific state laws can also dictate shorter time periods. In the state of California, for example, records must be released within five business days of receiving a written request. Patients must pay a reasonable fee. Health care providers, however, do not have to provide patients with copies of X-rays if they have sent them to another health care provider.

Health care providers cannot deny patients a copy of their medical records even if they have failed to pay for the services. An entity maintaining medical records must provide an electronic copy of the patients’ health information upon their request to the extent that it is readily available.