Within the health information management industry, there is often great confusion as to who actually has ownership over an original copy of a medical record: the physician or the patient? The physician is creating the records; however, he or she is creating them based on the happenings of a patient, so the question remains... who actually owns the original medical record?
Most would guess the patient takes ownership; however, this is not entirely the case. The physical medical record actually belongs to the physician who created it and the facility in which the record was created. The information gathered within the original medical record is owned by the patient. This is why patients are allowed a COPY of their medical record, but not the original document. Every healthcare facility is required by law to maintain the original medical record of patient that receives care and must safeguard it from loss, damage, alteration, and unauthorized use. The original medical record is considered a legal document and may not be removed from the facility's premises without a court order.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule
Although the original medical record IS the property of the physician's office who created it (as stated above), the patient is allowed to "inspect, review and receive a copy of his or her own medical records and billing records" held by health plans and healthcare providers covered by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. A provider cannot deny a patient a copy of his or her medical records, even if the patient has not yet paid for the services rendered. That being said, the healthcare provider is allowed and may charge the patient a fee for copying and mailing his or her medical records. These fees vary by state and are typically following a statute in place by that particular state's legislation. To view the fees in place for each state, follow this link: Medical Record Copying Fees.