The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights issued this letter in 2013 clarifying the right of health care consumers to view and receive copies of one’s personal health information, both in printed (copies) and electronic formats. The Office of Civil Rights is charged with the enforcement of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which some health care providers interpret as a legal prohibition against sharing any personal health information.

The letter clarifies that health care consumers have the right to:

*Ask to see and get a copy of your health records from most doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers such as pharmacies and nursing homes, as well as from your health plan;
*Get either a paper or, if records are kept electronically, an electronic copy of your records; and
*Have your provider or health plan send a copy of your records to someone else.

Having clarity on this consumer right will facilitate consumer use of health information technology, especially patient-facing features of electronic health record systems. The clarification also should facilitate and encourage increased health information exchange among a individual consumer’s health care providers.

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