In most states, a patient has an absolute right to get a copy of her or his medical records from any hospital, treating physician or other medical provider. The right is usually established by statute, regulation or simply by the common law. Many states will permit the medical provider to provide a reasonable charge in connection with searching for and copying the records. Some medical providers will provide a copy for free.
Georgia Law on Access to Medical Records
In Georgia, a patient has an absolute statutory right to obtain copies of his medical records (subject only to a single limited exception below). The health care provider can charge a reasonable amount for the copies.
Georgia Statute O.C.G.A. § 31-33-2 states: "(a) Upon written request from the patient, the provider having custody and control of the medical record shall furnish a complete and current copy of that record, in accordance with the provisions of this Code section. (b) Any record requested under subsection (a) . . . shall be furnished within a reasonable period of time to the patient, any other provider designated by the patient, or any other person designated by the patient."
The provider can refuse on the basis that release will be detrimental to the physical or mental health of the patient, but the provider may not refuse a direction by the patient to send the record to another provider. O.C.G.A.§ 31-33-2(c).
The party requesting the patient's records shall be responsible to the provider for the costs of copying and mailing the patient's records." O.C.G.A. §31-33-3. The statute goes on to specify $20.00 for search and retrieval, $7.50 for each record certified, Actual costs of postage, Copying costs of up to .75/page for the first 20 pages, .65/page for pages 21 – 100, and .50/page for each page over 100 pages. However, to the extent that the records are not in paper form (such as radiology x-rays, films, models, or fetal monitoring strips), the provider can charge the actual cost of reproduction. These charges will rise with the Consumer Price Index starting July 1, 2002 and changed each year thereafter. The provider may require payment prior to the records being furnished. The patient shall have no claim of ownership on the original medical record (only a right to the copy).
These statutes do not apply to mental health records. (O.C.G.A. § 31-33-4)
Statutes such as these should be interpreted and applied only with the help of an experienced attorney versed in the nuances of the law.