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Are Doctors Allowed to Charge for Medical Records?

by Dr.Sal MD on author

electronic medical record

Yes. It costs doctors staff time to pay someone to retrieve, copy, compile, and transmit medical records so most medical governing bodies permit physicians the right to charge for copies of records - we are mandated by law to keep the original copies. However, there are suggested rates to fairly compensate our clinics while preventing gouging of the public (for example $25 for the request plus 25 cents per page photocopied). For records being released to insurance companies they usually set their price points to a maximum cap. And for records to lawyers, they usually leave it to our professional discretion what we'll charge.

Sometimes doctors will charge a nuisance fee for frivolous requests. At my clinic we used to print off current labs and x-ray reports for patients who asked pro bono, but we now charge a few cents each time to dissuade people from interrupting our staff and using up our ink, electricity, and paper for these requests that in reality make no difference to the patient's care.

This honor system works smoothly most of the time. But not always. I once requested a consult on a patient of mine and was incensed to learn that the specialist invoiced them for an exorbitant sum for 2 pages of notes. I contacted the medical governing body for their area about the predatory practice and they made intercession on behalf of my patient. My patient ended up paying zilch.

If you have further questions on your medical records or feel you are being taken advantage of, visit your State/Province medical board/college website. They typically have information on the transfer of medical records process, acceptable practices and charges, and how to report the rare usury, malfeasance, or nonperformance.

As a final note on transferring medical files, if the asking price is too high, ask your receiving doctor if they need all of your medical file. Very often I only need pin point documents like surgeries or pathology results with the rest of the verbiage not being relevant. You can then request the meat of the charts they need at a fraction of the total price leaving the fat behind - in your fat wallet :)


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