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5 Tips for Eliminating the Cost of Medical Records

One of the biggest (and unnecessary) expenses of personal injury litigation is the cost of medical records.  Most plaintiffs’ lawyers request a complete set of medical records for all dates of treatment and get exorbitant invoices for the photocopy fees from third-party contractors. The photocopy fees for medical records can amount to a small king’s ransom.  This should NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!

Try these five tips for reducing (or even eliminating) the cost of medical records.

Tip #1:  Access the Records Through a Patient Portal

First, ask your client whether their doctor has a patient portal.  Many medical facilities, including VA Hospitals and primary care physicians, have a patient portal that allows their patients to obtain an electronic copy of their medical records.

Your client can give you access to the patient portal and you can print or download the medical records. This is the easiest and quickest way to get medical records.

Tip #2:  Scan the Records During an Original Chart Review

Under federal and New York State law, you have the right to review and copy the original medical records (known as an “original chart review”) at no cost. Call the medical records department of the doctor’s office or hospital and schedule a date for an “original chart review”. Under federal law, you cannot be charged an “inspection fee”.

Bring a portable laser color scanner to the original chart review and scan the medical records. You’ll leave the hospital with a complete electronic copy of the medical records, in color, at no cost. Having “inspected” the original medical records, you’ll know you have a complete copy of the medical records.

If the medical records custodian denies your request for an original chart review, ask to speak with a supervisor. If that fails, send the hospital/doctor a letter via certified mail citing the law and send a copy to the state’s Department of Health. By showing the hospital that you know your rights, you’ll get the original chart review.

Tip #3:  Subpoena Medical Records

Serve a subpoena duces tecum for the medical records during discovery in a pending lawsuit.  Under New York law, you can subpoena the medical records during the discovery phase of the lawsuit and the doctor/hospital cannot charge a photocopy fee, other than the statutory fees.

With a subpoena and the statutory witness and travel fees (usually costing $40), you can get a complete set of the medical records.

Tip #4:  Request Medical Records in Electronic Format Only

Demand that the hospital/doctor provide the medical records in electronic format only. Under federal law, you have the right to insist upon the production of electronic medical records.  The hospital/doctor can only charge for the actual labor fee of producing the medical records in electronic format.

NEVER request a paper copy of medical records unless your request is limited to less than 50 pages. In your cover letter, you should state in big, bold print that the hospital/doctor must receive prior written authorization from you for a photocopy fee exceeding $20.

Tip #5:   Only Request the Medical Records that You Need

When requesting a paper copy of medical records, request only those parts of the records that you need. For a potential case involving a surgical error, you may only need the operative report, discharge summary and consultation reports and specify the dates of treatment, i.e., “We are only requesting the operative report, discharge summary and consultation report(s) for the hospital admission on August 31, 2017.”

By specifying the records that you need, you will save $ for the initial case evaluation. You can always request a complete copy of the medical records (in electronic format) once you’ve accepted the case for litigation.

photo credit: Doug Waldron Files (85) via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.