Your Right to Know – Patient Access to Dental Records
By Eric Thorn, Esq.
When most dental patients that need a crown go to the dentist to have it placed they leave the office rarely knowing where their crown was made (maybe not even in the U.S.) what materials are in the crown, or whether the dental laboratory that made the crown even uses certified dental technicians (CDTs) or not.
You Have a Right to Know about your crown, dentures, and other dental restorations
In addition to asking your dentist where your dental restoration was made, by whom and what materials are in it, you are entitled to copies of your patient record. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations patients are guaranteed access to their health information. See 45 CFR § 164.524
Put yourself in the “driver’s seat”
Easy access to your health information helps you to be more in control of decisions regarding your dental health. Being informed and asking questions will allow you to participate in and make more informed decisions regarding your options. Dentists who use a quality dental laboratory should be happy to speak with you about the dental laboratory they are using and to discuss the pros and cons of the different materials options that the dental laboratory will use to make your dental restoration.
If the dentist is uncertain, your questions will cause the dentist to have the conversation with the dental laboratory. This will help to ensure that the dentist is prescribing, and that the dental laboratory is using, the materials that you and your dentist have decided on.
Being armed with the information in your patient record combined with asking about the location and quality of the dental laboratory the dentist has selected to make your crown or other dental restoration will help to put you “in the driver’s seat” with respect to your dental health.
Getting a Copy of Your Patient Record
HIPAA covered health care providers, such as dentists, are required to provide their patients, upon request, with their health information, including the information in their patient file. Your dentist may require your request to be in writing. See 45 CFR164.524(b)(1).Your dentist may also offer the option of using e-mail, or a web portal to make requests.
While a dentist may require verification of identity, and that patient records requests be in writing, and may charge a reasonable cost-based fee (See 45 CFR 164.524(c)(4)), they may not impose unreasonable barriers or delays. For example, while it may be permitted, your dentist may not require you to physically come to their office to request your patient record or require that your request be mailed, as this would cause unreasonable delay. Nor may they require you to provide a reason for requesting your health information. And even if known, the reason for a request is not permitted grounds to deny a request.
By asking the right questions and equipping yourself with the right information you will know, What’s In Your Mouth!
For additional Information on your access rights under HIPAA please see:
Eric Thorn serves as in-house counsel for the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL). He is a leading voice for American dental laboratories on regulatory topics and works with state dental laboratory associations across the country helping to develop, present, and advance proposals and legislation relating to basic standards for the dental laboratory technology profession nationwide.
Eric Thorn formerly served as the General Counsel of the Florida House of Representatives. Prior to joining NADL, he spent over a decade in private practice with a prestigious Florida-based law firm representing businesses and associations in governmental relations and business development matters.