Patient Right to Access Medical Records

submitted by: Bria Lewis, Esq., Staff Attorney

New York State Law gives patients and other qualified individuals (including but not limited to Legal Guardians, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Proxies) access to medical records. You can request your medical records from your physician or a health care facility (including hospitals, home care facilities, hospices, health maintenance organizations and shared health facilities). All information concerning or relating to your examination or treatment must be available for your review. A request for medical records must be made in writing to either the individual physician or the health care facility.  Your request should be as precise as possible.

There are some portions of your medical record that your physician can deny you access. They include:

  • Personal notes and observations.
  • Information disclosed to the practitioner under the condition that it would be kept confidential.
  • Information that the practitioner believes should not be disclosed regarding the treatment of a minor. A patient over age 12 may be advised of a records request and, if he or she objects, the provider may deny the request.
  • Information the physician believes may cause substantial harm to the patient or others.
  • Information obtained from other physicians who are still in practice. That information should be requested directly from those practitioners.
  • Substance abuse program records and clinical records of facilities licensed or operated by the Office of Mental Health. Mental Hygiene Law provides a separate process for release of these records.

The law does not specify a time period by which copies of your medical record should be provided, but the New York State Department of Health (DOH) considers 10 to 14 days to be a reasonable time. The law allows physicians and institutions to charge no more than 75 cents a page, plus postage, for paper copies of medical records. However, an individual cannot be denied access to information solely because he, she, or they is unable to pay. Moreover, if you request records for the purpose of applying for government benefits, the provider or health care facility should not charge you for requesting the records.

If you request your records and are denied, you have a right to appeal. When a physician or facility denies you access, they must provide you with a form explaining the appeals process. A written appeal must be filed with the DOH. (See for a copy of Denial of Access to Patient Information and Appeal Form) A physician has 10 days to provide copies of the records and an explanation for the denial to the chair of the state Medical Records Access Review Committee. Within 90 days, the committee reviews the records, provides the physician and the individual requesting the records an opportunity to be heard, and issues a written decision. If the committee finds that the records should be made available, the physician must comply. If the appeal is denied, the individual can seek disclosure through the courts. However, if the committee decides that parts of the record are personal notes, the decision is final and cannot be reviewed in court.

For further information regarding this process, contact:

API Coordinator                                                                                                                                                                                                                            New York State Department of Health – OPMC                                                                                                                                                                      150 Broadway, Suite 355                                                                                                                                                                                                        Albany, NY 12204-2719

For Physicians, Osteopaths, Physician Assistants, Specialist Assistants and other Health Care Providers (Chiropractors, Dentists, Nurses, Physical Therapists, Podiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, etc.) call: 1-800-663-6114

If you would like information regarding records held by hospitals, direct your initial inquiry to the hospital. For additional information or assistance, call: 1-800-804-5447

If you would like information regarding records held by facilities licensed or operated by the New York State Office of Mental Health, direct your initial written request to the director of the individual facility. For additional information or assistance, call: 1-800-597-8481

If you have questions regarding substance abuse records, direct your initial inquiry to the individual facility. For additional information or assistance, call: 1-518-473-3460

Public Information Office                                                                                                                                                                                                            NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services                                                                                                                                                        1450 Western Avenue                                                                                                                                                                                                            Albany, NY 12203-3526

The above content is to be used for informational purposes only and is subject to change at any time. This information does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.



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