Since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 became law, the manner in which medical professionals keep, share and transfer patients’ health records to electronic form has become far stricter — including any mental health records.
HIPAA ultimately protects the privacy of any individual receiving medical care. One interesting aspect included under its Privacy Rule is that it gives the patient the right to review, inspect and obtain a copy of their physical and mental health records.
You deserve to know exactly how and where to check mental health records. If the behavioral health professional you receive treatment from uses ICANotes as his or her Electronic Health Record software, all you have to do is sign up through the patient portal to get private, secure access to the electronic version of your mental health records.
Where to Check Mental Health Records
Before diving into some of the best practices to check health records, it’s important to note that since HIPAA is a federal law, there are plenty of government-sponsored sources to help individuals looking to access their health records. If you’re curious, one of the best places to start is The Guide to Getting & Using Your Health Records, sponsored by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
Of course, your mental health record contains private and sensitive information, so obtaining access to it is essential. Here are some pointers to keep in mind and assist you along the way:
- Rules of Access: You or your legal representative are the only ones to have access to your mental health record. However, with your permission, a mental health care provider may share a copy of your record with a health plan or other provider to assist with payment or further treatment.
- Permitted Fees: No health care provider can deny you access to your record for financial reasons. For example, even if you didn’t pay the healthcare provider’s fees for services rendered, you legally still should be able to access your information. Also, you may not be charged a separate fee for the retrieval of your record. However, a healthcare provider may charge you a reasonable price for any costs resulting from copying or mailing your record.
- Psychotherapy Notes: While you have the right to access your mental health record, that right does not extend to a psychotherapist’s notes taken during any therapy sessions. These, of course, are the notes a therapist makes during conversations with a patient and are separate from the patient’s health record.
- Making Corrections: If any information in your mental health record is incorrect, ask to change it. It’s then the responsibility of your health care plan or provider to make the necessary corrections.
How to Find Your Electronic Health Records
The easiest way to access your electronic health records (EHR) is via your health care provider’s patient portal. According to recent statistics from The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, eight out of 10 patients found their health care provider’s online patient portal helpful and user-friendly.
If you’re not sure where to start, visit your mental health care provider’s website and go to their Contact Us page. Then, follow their directions for making inquiries about access to your mental health record.