As a health consumer, it is your right (in most cases) to access your medical records. This is whether it is for personal use or for use in a potential litigation. However, the medical records still remain the property of the healthcare provider.
You can request medical records from any healthcare provider that you have had contact with in the past. For example, a doctor’s appointment or admission into hospital.
How to request medical records from the public sector
Most public hospitals have websites with a section dedicated to informing the health consumer how they can access their medical records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Most hospitals ask for your request to be in writing. This can be done by letter, email or fax to the Freedom of Information Coordinator with specific details to allow them to access the information you require. This would usually be:
- Your full name.
- Date of Birth.
- Your hospital unit number (if you have it).
- The dates of the attendance to the hospital (or service).
- The reason why you attended the hospital (or service).
- Two forms of identification (usually your drivers licence and Medicare card).
Most public hospitals have a fixed fee for providing your medical records to you and they request this amount after they have made their decision.
How to request medical records from the private sector
The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the private sector. In this case, the Privacy Act applies.
To access your medical records from the private sector, you would put a request in writing to the health professional or healthcare provider with the same information as you would do in a request to the public sector.
The fees to access your medical records in the private sector can be higher. However, the Privacy Principles state that the health professional/service must not cause financial hardship to a person exercising their right to access their medical records or use it as a profit making exercise.
If the amount payable is excessive, you have the right to telephone the health professional or service and ask for a reduced amount based on the Privacy Principles.
How long will it take the health professional/service to make a decision?
After making the request, the health professional or service has 45 days to reply and make a decision to release all, part or none of the medical records.
If you disagree with the decision, you will be given 14 days to appeal the decision.