Medical tests: Do I have a right to a copy of mine?

General question… if my doc orders some tests for me, am I entitled to have a copy of the results? Or is there some funny back-office medical ethics thing that says only a doctor can read them to me? I paid for 'em, after all.

The actual physical medical file is the property of the doctor’s office, but yes, you are entitled to copies of anything in your medicdal record. The doctor’s office can charge you a fee for the copies - they usually won’t if you’re just asking for a page or two of photocopies.

Are you asking whether you can get the results without the doctor being in the loop at all? Like having your biopsy results mailed directly to you without a copy going to your doctor?

I know a lot of labs will basically refuse to hand them to you.
One of our resident DopinDoctors should be along by the end of the day…

Actually it varies from state to state. Did you pay for the test? Or did you pay for your doctor’s interpretation of the results? Would you have been satisfied had he drawn the sample, sent it out, then handed you the results for you to interpret?

PS - to avoid copying fees, take in a digital camera. I can get a readable copy of most documents with my Sony.

How about an MT, since I’m the one who generated the report?

There are a few states where you can walk in cold and order certain tests (not all available tests, but specific general ones), however I’m not aware of any state that will hand the results directly to the patient. This is because the results need to be reviewed and interpreted by a qualified person. Handing uninterpreted results to your average joe on the street is like handing them a big ol’ gun. They are going to hurt themselves or someone else by taking action on test results that they don’t understand or grossly misunderstand.


No, this is just where I went in to get a physical, the doctor ordered a number of tests, left me a voice message as to the results (which were normal for someone of my age and condition). I just want a copy of the actual reports as they were generated.

Generally when this happens to me, a paper copy of the results shows up in the mail a few days later, entirely unsolicited by me. So you might just wait a bit and see if it happens “magically.”

I paid for both services, so I believe I’m entitled to both. That’s what I’m asking.

As I said, it varies by state. The questions were not mine, but rather how some states look at the situation. You say you paid for both, but an MD can say that he didn’t charge a cent for the test. He did, however charge $X for result interpretation.

In Canada you have a right to a copy of any test or your medical file, though doctors may charge a “reasonable” fee for giving it to you.

At the lab where I work, we get cases from doctors and will only issue results to the doctor, not the patient. However, I don’t think you would have any trouble getting a copy of our report from your doctor.

If you are in the US, HIPAA (a federal law) provides that you can request a copy of your medical file and it must be provided to you within 30 days. They are allowed to charge you copying and shipping fees. There are only a few exceptions to this, you are not able to obtain copies of a psychotherapists notes, information compiled for a lawsuit or if the doctor determines that the infomation could reasonably endanger your life.

These are the federal minimums, the various states are able to add additional protections for the patient, but not reduce these standards.

Do not assume that the doctor’s office will mail copies of the tests. This is done in some circumstances, but to reduce costs, lab results (especially normal ones) are not routinely sent out. There should be no problem with getting them sent to you on request.

Not neccessarily. Someone from the doctors office will have to be there with you, locating your file, and pulling out those test results for you to photograph. So they are entitled to charge you a fee for that person’s time.

Some local government offices have campaign finance reports that are publically available. There is a coin-operated copy machine in the office, and you can make copies for 15¢ per page. Or you can request that their staff pull a file and copy it for you, which costs $1.25 per page ($5 minimum) plus mailing charges. That charge clearly includes a fee for the employees’ time.

Wow. Bastardly, but no worse than some other billing practices.

Here in Colombia, we get the results of the tests and take them to the doctor. Then, we take them home. We paid for them and they are ours to keep.

And we have a winner! Just to add one detail about psychotherapy notes, what you can’t have is what we usually call “process notes” which are those things I jot down during a session. You can, on the other hand, have anything I would send to the insurance company–dates, times, diagnosis, treatment plans, and prognosis. Everyone also has the right to any testing results. For example, when I do an evaluation before weight loss surgery, I give the patient a copy of the report that I send to the doctor, if they want it. So far, everyone has. Even if the psychologist doesn’t offer, however, you have the right to request it and they have to give it to you. Most psychologists and psychiatrists might want you to go over it with you, though, to make sure you understand.

Another MT checking in. In Canada (well, in the hospital where I’m currently employed) you can get your results from the lab, but must fill out a form first. In general, yes, we release the results to the doctors. We’re not calling all the patients at home to give them their cholesterol scores or their blood types. But if you come into the lab and fill out the “request for release of medical information”, we’ll give you a copy of your results.

Exception to the rule: any potentially “sensitive” tests, such as HIV or Hepatitis. That’s something that will only be told to you by your doctor.

Wow all that is really interesting to read.
Here in france when you go to the lab, you can chose to have them send a copy of your results to you, at no cost, or to come pick it up later. In my lab they ask if you want a copy to be sent to the doc who has ordered the test, so I gather you could say no and bring your own copy yourself.

I always ask for a copy (well, that’s the standard for everyone anyway) because a couple of times when I went back to see the doc who had written me the script for the tests, he hasn’t received the results yet or it got lost, so I always always bring the results with me, and leave with them.