Medical Records/FAQs

Is there a law that says I can see or copy my medical records?

How can I get a copy of my medical records?

Can a physical therapist charge me for copies of my medical records?

What if my physical therapist refuses to give me a copy of my records?

How long is a physical therapist required to retain medical records?

How long does a physical therapist have to send me a copy of medical records I requested?

How can I correct an error in my records?

Who owns the medical records? Do the records belong to me?

How do I get my medical records if my physical therapist moves away/retires/dies?

Patient Access to Medical Records

Is there a law that says I can see or copy my medical records?

You can make a written request to either review or obtain a copy of your medical records pursuant to Health and Safety Code sections 123100 through 123149.5. The laws which authorize access to your records are available on the Internet and you might wish to review them for information about time lines and the fees he or she may charge to provide the records. You can view these laws at the following Web site: leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html

How can I get a copy of my medical records?

For information on how to obtain a copy of your medical records, click here.

Can a physical therapist charge me for copies of my medical records or x-rays?

Yes, pursuant to Health & Safety Code section 123110, a doctor can charge 25 cents per page plus a reasonable clerical fee. For diagnostic films, such as an x-ray, MRI, CT and PET scans, you can be charged the actual cost of copying the films. This only applies if you have made a written request for a copy of your medical records to be provided to you.

What if my physical therapist refuses to give me a copy of my records?

As long as you requested your medical records in writing, to be sent directly to you (and not to anyone else), the physical therapist is required to send you a copy within specified time limits. If you are having difficulty getting your records, you can file a complaint with the PTBC. The PTBC will intervene on your behalf to determine why the records will not be provided to you.

How long is a physical therapist required to retain medical records?

The patient records must be maintained for at least seven years following the discharge, except the records of unemancipated minors must be maintained for at least one year after the minor reaches the age of 18.

How long does a physical therapist have to send me the copy of medical records I requested?

If you made your request in writing for the records to be sent directly to you, the physical therapist must provide copies to you within 15 days. The physical therapist can charge a reasonable fee for the cost of making the copies. If the physical therapist's office advises you that a fee will be charged for the records, the medical records do not need to be provided until the fee is paid. If the physical therapist does not comply within the time frame you can file a written complaint with the PTBC.

How can I correct an error in my records?

The patient can write an "Addendum" to be placed in his or her medical file. The original information will not be removed, but the new information, signed and dated by the patient, will be placed in the file. Health and Safety Code section 123111 states that an adult patient "shall have the right to provide to the health care provider a written addendum with respect to any item or statement in his or her records that the patient believes to be incomplete or incorrect. The addendum shall be limited to 250 words per alleged incomplete or incorrect item in the patient's record and shall clearly indicate in writing that the patient wishes the addendum to be made a part of his or her record. The health care provider shall attach the addendum to the patient's records and shall include that addendum whenever the health care provider makes a disclosure of the allegedly incomplete or incorrect portion of the patient's records to any third party."

Who owns medical records? Do the records belong to me?

No, they do not belong to the patient. Medical records are the property of the provider (or facility) that prepares them. This includes films and tracings from diagnostic imaging procedures such as x-ray, CT, PET, MRI, ultrasound, etc. The patient has a right to view the originals, and to obtain copies under Health and Safety Code sections 123100 - 123149.5.

How do I get my medical records if my physical therapist moves away/retires/dies?

There is no central "repository" for medical records. If a physical therapist moves, retires, or passes away, sometimes another physical therapist will either "buy out" or take over his/her practice. The "active" patients are usually notified by mail (as a courtesy), and told where to obtain their records. If you cannot locate the physical therapist, you may want to contact your local county medical society (which is part of the California Medical Association) to see if they have any information about the physical therapist practice (e.g., did someone else take over the practice?). For assistance, you may go to their Web site: www.ccapta.org/

If the physical therapist is deceased and did not transfer the practice to someone else, you might have to check your local Probate Court to see whether the physical therapist has an executor for his or her estate. You could then contact the executor to see if you can get a copy of the records. Depending on how much time has passed, whoever is appointed as the custodian of records can have the records destroyed.

Email the Consumer Protection Program cps@dca.ca.gov