September 6, 2018 Amanda Smith

Who Can (and Can’t) Access Medical Records

Sticky Post By Posted in Company Permalink

Medical records are some of the most important records we retrieve at The Records Company. They’re critical for insurance claims and litigation related to personal injury and a host of other types of cases. Because we comply with all state and federal privacy laws, we require all our client specialists to undergo rigorous training for HIPAA certification.

Under federal law, all patients may freely access their own medical records, but the regulations vary for other parties, depending on who is making the request and how the records will be used. Most other access to medical records requires patient permission, and here we will explore some of the details governing access to this sensitive material.

Care Providers

Doctors and hospital staff may access patient records within their own systems as needed during treatment and follow-up. Providers may share information with one another to facilitate treatment, for example, if a patient is transferred from one hospital to another for a specific procedure. In the event of disaster or emergency, providers have greater leeway to share information in the best interest of the patient or patients involved.

Insurance Companies

Health care providers share information from medical records with health plans and insurance providers when that information is relevant to the payment of a claim. The information provided for insurance claims may be limited. In some cases, insurance adjusters may request additional records to settle a claim, but they can only obtain those records with the patient’s permission.


Like private insurers, federal and state insurers such as Medicare and Medicaid may access only medical record information that is pertinent to a given claim. Additional access and information may require patient permission. Law enforcement entities may access medical records in specific cases, but the records must be relevant to a specific case and often require a court order or warrant for release. The Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights may access medical records in the course of investigating possible breaches in medical privacy law.


Medical researchers may access summaries of clinical data, but they can’t access identifying information or use identifying details without patient permission.


HIPAA doesn’t protect employment records, only medical records. Employers can ask their workers for medical information, such as verification of treatment related to sick leave. Health care providers and health plans can only release medical information to an employer if the patient authorizes the release of information. Employers may determine consequences if an employee doesn’t allow a health care provider to disclose medical information, but the decision to disclose still rests with the patient.

Friends and Family

Unless a friend or family member is designated as a personal representative–usually through power of attorney, guardianship, execution of an estate–a health care provider is not required to share medical information with a patient’s friends and family. Providers can share information with the patient’s permission or if the provider can reasonably assume the patient doesn’t object. For example, doctors can talk to friends who accompany a patient to the hospital if the patient gives verbal permission or if the patient is unconscious and sharing information can help with treatment.


If an individual pursues litigation for personal injury or another type of case involving medical records, that individual can authorize their attorney to retrieve medical records relevant to their case.

The Records Company

When The Records Company receives a request to retrieve medical records, those requests must be authorized by the patient. We work with insurance companies, law firms, and health care providers to retrieve hundreds of medical records every day, and we carefully safeguard the privacy of every record we retrieve. Contact us to learn more about how we protect our clients and customers while making records retrieval seamless and efficient.

Tagged: , , , ,