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Most adult medical records are kept by the health care provider for at least six years, though this can vary by state. Your child's medical records are kept between three to ten years after s/he turns 18, though again this length depends on the state.

Hospital records (or records from other medical facilities) should be requested directly from that facility. For any diagnostic test records, ask your primary physician, or the doctor who ordered the tests, since the lab won't give them to you directly. If your doctor closes or sells his or her practice, your records should still be available for at least ten years, though you may need to contact the state department of health to find out where your records are kept. You might be denied access to certain medical records, such as your mental health records, if your provider thinks it would harm your physical health for you to see your records.

Facilities may have forms on hand for you to request your medical records, but you can also fill out a Medical Records Request Letter and send it in. To complete any Medical Records Request form, you'll need to provide the following information:

  • Your name and maiden name
  • Your social security number
  • Your medical ID number under your policy, or the policy provider number
  • Your contact information (address, email and phone number)
  • The records being requested
  • The date of the service(s) of record
  • How you would like your records delivered
  • Your signature

Each state has its own laws governing the allowable cost of medical records. If you cannot afford the fee, write a handwritten letter stating that you cannot pay for the records, and the provider will typically give you your records without charge.

Knowing the contents of your medical records helps you know what to screen for, get targeted preventative care, and have a sense of personal security from being in control of your own health care decisions.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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