FAQs

1. How do I review and obtain copies of my medical records?

You must ask your health care provider in writing to look at and obtain copies of your medical records. The provider must honor your request “as promptly as required under the circumstances.” They generally have fifteen days.

Source: (RCW 70.02.80)

2. Can I be charged for copies of my medical records?

Maybe. Your provider can charge a “reasonable fee” for your copies. You may have to pay upfront.

Source: (RCW 70.02.30)

3. Can my healthcare provider refuse to let me see or have a copy of my medical records? Yes, if:

  1. They believe the information would be harmful to your health.
  2. It would tell you a source of information who should stay confidential.
  3. It would endanger someone’s health or safety.
  4. The provider used or gathered the health care information just for a court case.
  5. A provider who turns down (denies) your request for any of these reasons must try to separate what they believe they should not release and give you what they can. A provider who denies your request because of a claim of danger to yourself or another must tell you that you can ask another health care provider review to the file to decide if you can look at them and get copies of the records. You might have to pay the second provider to do this for you.

Source: (RCW 70.02.90)

4. How long does a hospital have to retain medical records in Washington State? (Applies to hospitals ONLY)

Unless specified otherwise by the department, a hospital shall retain and preserve all medical records which relate directly to the care and treatment of a patient for a period of no less than ten years following the most recent discharge of the patient; except the records of minors, which shall be retained and preserved for a period of no less than three years following attainment of the age of eighteen years, or ten years following such discharge, whichever is longer.

Source: (RCW 70.41.190)

5. How long does a physician have to retain medical records in Washington State? (Applies to physicians ONLY)

There is no specific length of time or law that physicians must retain medical records. The Washington State Medical Association suggests at least 7 years for adults and until age 21 for minors.

Source: State of Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission Guideline.

6. How to request military records?

  1. Federal law [5 USC 552a(b)] requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing. Each request must be signed (in cursive) and dated (within the last year).
  2. The information needed to locate military service records includes the veteran’s complete name as used in service; service number; Social Security Number (if applicable); branch of service; dates of service; date and place of birth. For records affected by the 1973 Fire, additional information, such as place of discharge; last assigned unit; and place of entry into service may be useful.
  3. To request military service records: veterans, the next-of-kin (the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister) or authorized representatives may:
  4. Request Records Online with eVetRecs
    Mail a letter or Standard Form (SF) 180, Request About Military Records to:
    National Personnel Records Center
    1 Archives Drive
    Louis, MO 63138
    Fax a letter or Standard Form 180 to 314-801-9195
  5. If you prefer to send your request via postal mail or fax, please use the Standard Form (SF) 180, Request About Military Records. Although not mandatory, using the SF-180 is the recommended method to send a request for military service information. This form captures all the necessary information to locate a record. Provide as much information on the form as possible and send copies of any service documents that you may have. Follow the instructions for preparing the SF-180. Check the Records Location Table and submit your request to the appropriate address.
  6. Note: For the issuance and replacement of medals and awards, do not use the addresses on the SF-180. See Military Awards and Decorations for additional information on how and where to submit correspondence for issuance or replacement.
  7. Costs: Generally there is no charge for basic military personnel and health record information provided to veterans, next-of-kin, and authorized representatives from Federal (non-archival) records. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that determination is made. See Archival Records for information on archival holdings and associated copy fees: the NARA fee schedule authorizes the Agency to collect fees from the public for copies of archival records (44 USC 2116c and 44 USC 2307).

* WSHIMA provides members with resources regarding health information management. WSHIMA is not liable for any damages arising in contact, tort, or otherwise from the use of or inability to use this site or any resources contained in it, or from any action or decision taken as a result of using the resources on this site. They do not constitute legal advice. You should consult your attorney for legal or other advice concerning health information issues.