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Do you have a right to your medical records in New Jersey?

The New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners establishes regulations and handles physician licensing and disciplinary actions. Under its provisions, New Jersey patients have a right to receive a copy of their medical records from any physician or medical facility. This can be of particular import if there is a question of medical malpractice regarding treatment. It is also relevant for transferring care to a different doctor, travel emergencies or questions about information accuracy.

Patients don't, however, have a right to take the original documents. This is because a physician is required to maintain them to guarantee a patient's medical history is available to a subsequently treating health care provider. These originals must be retained by the doctor or hospital for seven years, after which time they may be destroyed. A doctor doesn't have to notify a patient that they will be lost.

A doctor has permission to charge patients to copy their records. The maximum amount set by the Board is $1.00 per page, or $100.00 for the whole record, whichever is less. A minimum charge of $10.00 is allowed for records consisting of less than 10 pages. Reproducing tests such as X-rays may be billed at the actual cost, plus an administrative fee of $10.00 or 10 percent, whichever is less.

Copies must be provided within 30 days of a patient's request. Records may be released to family members, attorneys, other physicians, insurance companies or hospitals only if the patient has authorized it in writing. In the event records are needed for a deceased patient, the executor or administrator of the estate may obtain them.

If a patient has outstanding medical bills with a physician's office, the request for medical records can't be refused if they are needed for ongoing treatment. They can be held until the costs to reproduce the history is paid, provided they aren't needed for ongoing treatment.

Source: New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of the Attorney General, "Medical Examiners" accessed Feb. 18, 2015

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