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Issue 3: October 2023

Resources: Patient Access to their Medical Record

The College often receives calls from frustrated patients seeking to access their medical records. Often such inquiries arise when a practice closes for a period of time or permanently or when physicians reduce the size of their practice. Physicians are encouraged to be aware of their obligations in such instances and in particular in the management of patient medical records.

Whether in paper or electronic form, from the moment a patient record is created, the physician has a responsibility to ensure it is appropriately stored, secured, and maintained. While physicians own medical records, patients have a right to access their medical records. This right endures after the physician-patient relationship ends, regardless of whether the ending is planned or unexpected.

For the purpose of the Professional Standards Regarding the Management of Medical Records, a patient’s enduring right to access their own medical record is limited to the length of time when records are required to be retained by their physician.

When physicians close their practice the Professional Standard Regarding Temporarily or Permanently Closing a Medical Practice sets out the expectations of the College. The requirements for physicians in such instances apply to elective, unplanned, or imposed practice closures.

The College’s Professional Standards and Guidelines Regarding Reducing a Medical Practice addresses the responsibilities physicians have when reducing the number of patients in their practice.

These standards exist to provide direction to physicians to assist in ensuring the continuity of care and the preservation of patient records.