Although it would be all too convenient if our doctors just magically knew when and where to transfer our medical records for us before a move, this is sadly not the case. Transferring medical records is one of those responsibilities to plan for and take care of far enough in advance to make things easy on yourself.
All too often, we encounter hurdles in the US health care system. Requesting documents can be slow, and we do not always receive the answers we want to hear right when we want to hear them. If you are moving, you already have enough to worry about. Don’t make it harder on yourself by forgetting to plan ahead and have your medical records transferred.
Questions to ask
Simple enough, questions to ask yourself – are my records coming from a private practice? If yes, then contact the office directly. Did your doctor leave the practice? That’s okay, your records will still be there. Similarly, if the practice was affiliated with a hospital, the hospital will have your records on file.
Ask your current office what they require from you in the process and how you can make the process go smoothly. Some offices may have different procedures than others when signing off on documents; the last thing you want is to miss a step and have your situation moved to the bottom of the pile.
Similarly, ask the office in your new location how they go about receiving records and what you can do to make the process easiest. Chances are they are going to tell you it can all be taken care of by the other office—but, better safe than sorry!
What records does your new specialist require? Depending on your age and your health history, your records could resemble a small manuscript. Since you might be getting charged for the transfer of records, try to find out if your new provider is really interested in the entire stack or just bits and pieces (gotta love saving where you can).
In a perfect world
In a perfect world, you would fill out a form authorizing your medical provider to share all your medical records with another. You would then sign over any legal obligations, and pay any fees resulting in the transfer. The goal from that is your records being sent to your new doctor’s office within a few business days, and you having the bill mailed to you personally. With 2017’s sophisticated 21st century technology, this is likely going to be a lot easier to get done quickly. However, many offices still rely heavily on the fax machine which could slow the process.
Check in regularly to make sure your request is being processed quickly. Thankfully the government doesn’t give health care providers much flexibility when it comes to holding your records. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) they are required to have your request processed and completed in under 30 days. It’s also a good idea to check up on both parties – if your old office claims they sent your records but your new office doesn’t have them, ask for them to be resent.
This process of transferring medical records is a step that absolutely cannot be skipped. Your health should be one of the first things you add to your list of obligations to attend to and take care of when moving, starting with making sure you will be able to get adequate coverage when you are in your new place.