Access To Medical Records In California

A. HOSPITAL MEDICAL RECORDS MUST BE KEPT FOR A MINIMUM OF SEVEN (7) YEARS FOR ADULTS, AND 1 YEAR AFTER A MINOR REACHES THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN (18)
Section 70751 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations provides:
70751. Medical Record Availability
"(a)  Records shall be kept on all patients admitted or accepted for treatment. All required patient health records, either as originals or accurate reproductions of the contents of such originals, shall be maintained in such form as to be legible and readily available upon the request of: . . . .
(5) Any other person authorized by law to make such a request.
(b)  The medical record, including X-ray films, is the property of the hospital and is maintained for the benefit of the patient, the medical staff and the hospital. The hospital shall safeguard the information in the record against loss, defacement, tampering or use by unauthorized persons.
(c) Patient records including X-ray films or reproduction thereof shall be preserved safely for a minimum of seven years following discharge of the patient, except that the records of unemancipated minors shall be kept at least one year after such minor has reached the age of 18 years and, in any case, not less than seven years.
. . . .
(f) Medical records shall be filed in an easily accessible manner in the hospital or in an approved medical record storage facility off the hospital premises."
B. MEDICAL RECORDS MUST BE PROVIDED FOR INSPECTION WITHIN FIVE (5) WORKING DAYS, AND FOR COPYING WITHIN FIFTEEN (15) DAYS OF REQUEST
Section 123110 of the California Health and Safety Code provides:
123110. Inspection of records; Copying of records; Violations
"(a) .... any patient representative shall be entitled to inspect patient records upon presenting to the health care provider a written request for those records and upon payment of reasonable clerical costs incurred in locating and making the records available. .... A health care provider shall permit this inspection during business hours WITHIN FIVE WORKING DAYS after receipt of the written request. The inspection shall be conducted by the patient or patient's representative requesting the inspection, who may be accompanied by one other person of his or her choosing.
(b) Additionally, any patient or patient's representative shall be entitled to copies of all or any portion of the patient records that he or she has a right to inspect, upon presenting a written request to the health care provider specifying the records to be copied, together with a fee to defray the cost of copying, that shall not exceed twenty-five cents ($0.25) per page or fifty cents ($0.50) per page for records that are copied from microfilm and any additional reasonable clerical costs incurred in making the records available. The health care provider shall ensure that the copies are transmitted WITHIN 15 DAYS after receiving the written request.
. . . .
  (i) Any health care provider described in paragraphs (4) to (10), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 123105 who willfully violates this chapter is guilty of unprofessional conduct. Any health care provider described in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of Section 123105 that willfully violates this chapter is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100). The state agency, board, or commission that issued the health care provider's professional or institutional license shall consider a violation as grounds for disciplinary action with respect to the licensure, including suspension or revocation of the license or certificate."
  [Also see Evidence Code Section 1158:
 

"Whenever, prior to the filing of any action or the appearance of a defendant in an action, an attorney at law or his or her representative presents a written authorization therefor signed by an adult patient, by the guardian or conservator of his or her person or estate, or, in the case of a minor, by a parent or guardian of the minor, or by the personal representative or an heir of a deceased patient, or a copy thereof, a physician and surgeon, dentist, registered nurse, dispensing optician, registered physical therapist, podiatrist, licensed psychologist, osteopathic physician and surgeon, chiropractor, clinical laboratory bioanalyst, clinical laboratory technologist, or pharmacist or pharmacy, duly licensed as such under the laws of the state, or a licensed hospital, shall make all of the patient's records under his, hers or its custody or control available for inspection and copying by the attorney at law or his, or her, representative, promptly upon the presentation of the written authorization.

No copying may be performed by any medical provider or employer enumerated above, or by an agent thereof, when the requesting attorney has employed a professional photocopier or anyone identified in Section 22451 of the Business and Professions Code as his or her representative to obtain or review the records on his or her behalf. The presentation of the authorization by the agent on behalf of the attorney shall be sufficient proof that the agent is the attorney's representative.

Failure to make the records available, during business hours, within five days after the presentation of the written authorization, may subject the person or entity having custody or control of the records to liability for all reasonable expenses, including attorney' s fees, incurred in any proceeding to enforce this section.

All reasonable costs incurred by any person or entity enumerated above in making patient records available pursuant to this section may be charged against the person whose written authorization required the availability of the records.

'Reasonable cost,' as used in this section, shall include, but not be limited to, the following specific costs: ten cents ($0.10) per page for standard reproduction of documents of a size 8 1/2 by 14 inches or less; twenty cents ($0.20) per page for copying of documents from microfilm; actual costs for the reproduction of oversize documents or the reproduction of documents requiring special processing which are made in response to an authorization; reasonable clerical costs incurred in locating and making the records available to be billed at the maximum rate of sixteen dollars ($16) per hour per person, computed on the basis of four dollars ($4) per quarter hour or fraction thereof; actual postage charges; and actual costs, if any, charged to the witness by a third person for the retrieval and return of records held by that third person.

Where the records are delivered to the attorney or the attorney's representative for inspection or photocopying at the record custodian' s place of business, the only fee for complying with the authorization shall not exceed fifteen dollars ($15), plus actual costs, if any, charged to the record custodian by a third person for retrieval and return of records held offsite by the third person."]

   
C. THE REQUEST MUST BE MADE BY THE PATIENT OR HIS/HER BENEFICIARY OR PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
Section 123105 (e) of the California Health and Safety Code provides:
"(e) 'Patient's representative' . . . means a parent or the guardian of a minor who is a patient, or the guardian or conservator of the person of an adult patient, or the beneficiary or personal representative of a deceased patient."

For questions or comments, you are invited to contact the HIDALGO law firm.


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