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Confidentially

Is my medical record secret? The physician is ethically bound to preserve your confidences and not let anyone find out what is in your medical record. The employees of a physician or hospital may review your records, but they are likewise bound to preserve the confidentiality of your records. Only in certain limited situations can your physician be legally required to divulge the contents of your record without your permission. You may, however, request that your records be inspected or copies by anyone of your choice.

When may my physician disclose the contents of my record without my permission?

* Some contagious diseases, including venereal disease, must be reported to the public health department.

* Certain violent injuries (such as gunshot wounds) must be reported to the police.

* If you are involved in a lawsuit where your health or physical condition is an issue, your physician may be called as a witness.

* If you make a workers compensation claim, the insurance carrier can obtain access to your records, even if you do not consent to their release.

Who else can get my medical records? If you have health or life insurance, you have probably signed a release as part of your policy or as part of a claim form. This allows the insurance company to check your medical records before they insure you or pay a claim. Without such a release, however, such information must not be disclosed.

Is the insurance company required to keep my records confidential? No. Once you give the insurance company your records, they may give the information to other persons without your permission.

What about records concerning treatment for mental illness, drug abuse, or alcoholism? There is a new law in Texas that gives records concerning treatment for such conditions additional protection from disclosure. This law prevents your records from being disclosed to other people or used in court, except in a court proceeding that involves your mental condition, the care received, payment of your bill, or certain other narrowly defined cases. This law does not protect your records if you release them to anyone. (This will vary from state to state.)

Who owns the medical record? The physician owns the records in the physician's office. The hospital owns the hospital records. However, you do have a right to the information in these records.

Do I have a right to a copy of these records? Most hospitals or physicians will give you a copy if you give them a written authorization to release the records. If they refuse your request, a call to your local medical society may help get you a copy of your records. Only if this does not work should it be necessary to consult an attorney.


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