Having Trouble Getting Access to Blood Test Restults
January 7, 2015 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I had an appointment a couple months ago with a new doctor. I wanted a general checkup and blood work. I expected to receive my blood test results a few weeks later via mail, as I've had in the past from other doctors. I hadn't heard from the doctor since that appointment so called this week to get my results and they say that I have to come in to get my results – there is no option for receiving via mail or discussing over the phone. Is this true and do I have any other option?

I haven't had a doctor's appointment in a while, so I may be totally wrong on any of the below and would be grateful for you smart cookies to give me the real info!

Here's what happened:

I had a doctor's appointment in November for a general checkup. I paid my copay in office. The appointment was fine, but I was not super thrilled with the doctor in general. I had a fasting blood test done. I've had high-ish cholesterol in the past so I was looking forward to seeing where I was on that.

I should have clarified with the doctor or the staff about how I would get the results of my bloodwork, but it didn't occur to me. I expected to just receive them in the mail as I've had happen with other doctors (as of a couple years ago).

This week I called to ask about my blood work and this is what happened:

- They said they'd be happy to make me an appointment to come in
- I said unfortunately I couldn't come in and could I please receive the results via mail
- They said they can't do that
- I said that I understood, but that I knew (?) I have a right to my medical record from their office
- They said yes, I have a right to my record and that it would be a $20 fee and I'd have to sign a form
- I said great! I'll pay the fee and sign the form and send via mail and you can send me the record
- They said that I had to pay the fee in-person, there is no option to pay over the phone via credit card or through the mail via check. They also said that, anyway, it would be a HIPAA violation to send a copy of my blood work or my medical records via mail.
- I reiterated that I just couldn't come in – that it wasn't possible – and the staff member was pretty much just like, them's the breaks, sorry!
- They did say that I could have another doctor request them and that would be fine, but I'd rather not go through that inconvenience of finding another doctor just to get these blood results.

So I'm stuck, I can't access my blood test results without going in and I'd really rather not go in since I didn't have the best experience there.

Am I wrong? Please set me straight if so. If I'm correct and I should have access to my records / blood work without going in, do I have any other options to obtain them?
posted by Uncle Glendinning to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do the tests include an HIV test? Many doctors will not give out the results of such a test any way but in person.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:50 PM on January 7, 2015

Best answer: Do you know where the bloodwork was done? I know in a lot of offices it's often sent to an outside independent lab. Maybe try figuring out where the actual lab work was done and see if they'd be willing to mail or fax you the results.
posted by AtoBtoA at 4:51 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can sign the consent to get the copy of your chart without seeing the doctor. The $20 is just the fee for their time etc. making you the copy. Unfortunately, it is true that you can't just call on the phone and request a copy of your chart by mail - at least, that is the policy of most offices.

Depending on what the blood work is (aside from cholesterol), there may be a reason why they want to discuss them with you in person. For example, HIV test results are never given over the phone, for obvious reasons. If they have something important to tell you, they want to be able to counsel you appropriately on it. However, if it's just routine test results and nothing special, and they don't think you'll need any advice on it, many offices will indeed have a nurse tell you the results over the phone. The problem is that it takes time, time is money, and they don't get reimbursed for making those phone calls. The reason for requiring you to come in is so that they can get paid for doing that work (I'm not saying I agree with it, just explaining most likely why that is their policy). I'd be annoyed by it too - even though I'm also a doctor and I understand a bit where they're coming from - and I can see why you'd like to transfer to a different office. If you do get a new doctor you will be able to get your records through them, and you can ensure you know their policies on this sort of thing before you make your appointment.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:51 PM on January 7, 2015

HIPAA explicitly allows for the mailing of health records where they can be provided to the individual.

From § 164.524, the section of the Code of Federal Regulations covering an individuals' access to records under HIPAA:

The covered entity must provide the access as requested by the individual in a timely manner as required by paragraph (b)(2) of this section, including arranging with the individual for a convenient time and place to inspect or obtain a copy of the protected health information, or mailing the copy of the protected health information at the individual's request.

There are also terms in that document regarding the denial of records which they are required to provide to you in writing - and which I assume hasn't happened. (There also are conditions where the provider can refuse access to your records listed in the Code, but I doubt they would apply to you from what you say above. However, there is no way for us to be sure of that.)

I would recommend reading the section of the Code linked above, calling them back to assert your rights under the Code, including, at the very least, a written denial explaining the basis for the denial and your rights under HIPAA.
posted by eschatfische at 4:54 PM on January 7, 2015 [15 favorites]

I'm not sure if they have to comply, but I just want to mention that I have never received a copy of my blood work unless I asked for a copy. I've lived in many cities and have visited many different doctors. A select few have entered the modern era and have online portals where you can access your medical records automatically, but most do not. Most expect to go over your blood work with you at a follow-up appointment. In the future, always tell the doctor you'd like to receive a copy of the results for your records. If you have Quest Diagnostics, I even think there is a little box the doctor can check for a patient copy, or maybe my doctor just adds it in the notes line. Either way, insist. I have tried asking at the lab when they were drawing the blood if I could get a copy of the results and they always said I needed to get the records from my doctor, which I didn't understand but never argued with.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

They're misinformed about not being able to mail them. It's not a HIPAA violation at all. I've faxed in a signed form with a copy of my ID and had records sent. This policy sounds very dodgy and not legal, especially if there was no HIV test.
posted by quince at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2015

Response by poster: You guys are all amazing and every answer provided me with some helpful info! I know a lot more for the future and won't make this mistake again.

And yes, no HIV test, nothing unusual. I just needed my cholesterol numbers.

AtoBtoA provided me with the immediate solution. I figured out what lab was used by checking my health insurance claims. I called the lab and they were like, No problem! Download this form from our website, fill it out, send us $5, and we'll mail you the results within two weeks.

Thanks so much to everyone! Marking as resolved.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 5:03 PM on January 7, 2015 [13 favorites]

As of 2014 you have the right to request your results directly from the laboratory. The lab is obligated to send you a copy within 30 days. HHS announcement here.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 5:03 PM on January 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

Looks like the US Department of Health & Human Services also have a brochure on consumer rights under HIPAA that should also help you get your records. From the brochure:

You can ask to see or get a copy of your medical record and other health information. If you want a copy, you may have to put your request in writing and pay for the cost of copying and mailing. In most cases, your copies must be given to you within 30 days.


You can make reasonable requests to be contacted at different places or in a different way. For example, you can ask to have a nurse call you at your office instead of your home or to send mail to you in an envelope instead of on a postcard.
posted by eschatfische at 5:05 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Personal recent experience with new physician and previous (by more than a decade) experience working as a medical receptionist (while HIPAA was first happening, so there was lots of training on it): different doctors have different office policies regarding spending time on the phone with patients (it's usually not billed time...) but they are *allowed* to discuss results over the phone - frankly, even the doctor's assistant can give you results over the phone. They can also email it to you if you've authorized that in advance, in writing with your signature attached. But it's not unusual that they wouldn't release the document without discussing the results with you first.

They should require you to sign an event specific release even to get a copy of your own bloodwork results, but it's normal for you to have to request it rather than them offering you a copy. It's not unusual for an office to charge you for a copy of your full record, but it is unusual for them to charge for a copy of the few pages of a BW result. They'll normally send a (free) copy of your full records to your new or consulting doctor's office as a professional courtesy.

I find it quite bizarre that they won't release a copy of your BW results to you, and equally bizarre that they won't accept a mailed check. I suppose "how will you convey test results to me" is one of the questions we should all add to our list when interviewing a new doctor...I hadn't really thought of that until you brought it up.
posted by AliceBlue at 5:16 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

In the future, you might consider a doctor who uses an online patient portal. I see all my bloodwork results online as soon as they are sent to the doctor. If she wants to discuss anything with me, she calls, but otherwise, I see what she sees.
posted by cecic at 5:17 PM on January 7, 2015 [13 favorites]

The $20 fee is exorbitant- they are allowed to charge a 'reasonable and customary' per page fee. AFAIK, no other fees are permitted.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:39 PM on January 7, 2015

Call back and ask again - you would be surprised at the range of responses you will get for a question like this when calling a doctor's office. If you are persistent I suspect you will find someone who will be significantly more reasonable. Also, a written letter requesting the results might have more weight.

If not, and you were covered by insurance call them and describe the situation. I had an interaction with a doctor's office that was mind numbingly crazy. Since it was related to certain procedure codes my insurance was pulled into the discussion. It was absolutely amazing how the office withered when confronted by the insurance carrier on the phone. Amazingly everything was resolved immediately to my satisfaction.

I'm not sure insurance will care nowadays, but it's worth a call and a question. If the office has a contract with the insurance carrier they may actually get involved on fees for records, etc. I would start with the fact that this is all about preventative care (cholesterol) and that even though you had the appointment, they have not given you important information. A suggestion that they were trying to bill you (and the insurance co) for another visit just to get results might have some impact...
posted by NoDef at 7:20 PM on January 7, 2015

In the future you could see if you can get your bloodwork run at a lab that has online results access. IIRC Quest even has an app and you can get the results pretty fast.
posted by radioamy at 10:18 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding cecic and radioamy. As of my most recent physical — about a month ago — I was able to see the results of my blood and urine tests, online, the day after the physical. My doctor added his comments on the results a few hours later.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:26 AM on January 8, 2015

Yeah, now that you have your test results on the way, you should consider changing doctors before the next visit. I've stayed with mine for almost 15 years because he sends out my test results within 7 days along with a one or two sentence handwritten note (like: "Everything looks good. Focus on XX thing, like we discussed"). And now the hospital that he's part of has everything online, and even with that I still get my regular note.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:42 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thank you for this askme! I have been trying to get my lab results for months and was told that I either had to make another appointment to get them and that they wouldn't mail them to me. I just called back and spoke to a different person and she is putting them in the mail today. yay.

And thanks to eschatfische for linking to the Code!
posted by futz at 11:18 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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