Medical Records Retrieval: How HIPAA Impacts Discovery

Sep 21 2015 | posted by LORR Team

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known as HIPAA, is designed to protect the private medical information of patients in the U.S. It comes into play when records are transferred or submitted, and it’s often a huge hurdle for personal injury or accident lawyers when discovering evidence for a case.

How HIPPA Impacts Medical Record Retrieval


You see, any form of medical records retrieval must completely comply with HIPAA. Attorneys must either:

  • Get records from patients themselves – Patients should be able to request their own medical records. This only works if the attorney needs records from their own client, though; opposing parties are unlikely to just hand over their private information without a struggle.
  • Submit a subpoena If an attorney subpoenas a medical provider for records, it must be accompanied by a HIPAA-compliant authorization form signed by the patient. These forms vary from entity to entity, so it will require getting in touch with the records department on-site before the request can be filed. In general, they usually require the date and purpose of the request, a description of the information required, and a signature from the patient, among other requirements.
  • Get a court order Getting a court order is also a way to get medical records, though the order must be very specific in what information is required. Often, if court orders are not detailed enough, provider will only send selected records – not the whole history an attorney may be looking for.

Once litigation is over, HIPAA often requires that medical records be destroyed or returned back to the original provider. This depends on the type of case, however, and whether it is necessary to retain the information held in the records.

Want to learn more about medical records retrieval? Want to ensure your records requests comply with HIPAA? Submit a request through LORR today.