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Professional Standards Regarding Medical Records: Frequently Asked Questions

A medical record acts as a tool for every patient encounter with a health care professional. It is an account of a patient’s medical history, care or treatments received, test results, diagnoses, and medications prescribed that may help determine the health care received by the patient.

For more information on medical records please read the College’s Professional Standards Regarding Medical Records.

Who is responsible for the management of my medical records?

The College does not store or maintain patient medical records.

A custodian is considered the owner of your medical records and responsible for its management. A physician, a regulated health professional, a health authority or a licensed continuing care facility can be considered the custodian, or owner of your medical record.

Please review the Nova Scotia Personal Health Information Act for a full definition of custodian.

As a custodian, physicians are responsible for maintaining confidentiality and access to your records. As a patient, you have a right to a copy of your medical information.

Do I have to pay a fee to request my medical records?

Fees for medical records is commonplace and considered acceptable. This is outlined in Nova Scotia legislation called the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA).

Fees are in place to recover the costs of copying files, such as the time of the staff person, photocopying costs (paper, ink), digital devices such as thumb drives and postal fees.

The PHIA provides a Fees Fact Sheet to help patients understand what are considered reasonable and unreasonable fees.

How do I access my medical records if my physician closes their practice?

When a physician closes their practice, they are expected to provide their patients and the College with information on how to access medical records. This is outlined in the College’s Professional Standards Regarding Temporarily or Permanently Closing a Medical Practice.

Physicians must make appropriate arrangements for either the retention or transfer of records to another physician or clinic, for safe storage or use a secure record storage company.

The use of a secure record storage company is an appropriate and acceptable method for physicians to use to ensure patients can access their medical records. There are associated fees for patients to access their records through these facilities.

For more information on closing a medical practice please refer to the College’s Professional Standards Regarding Temporarily or Permanently Closing a Medical Practice.

If you do not know how to locate your medical records, please leave a message for our Public Support Advisor at 902-421-2201.

How long are medical records kept?

A physician is obligated, via the Nova Scotia Personal Health Information Act, to maintain records for a minimum of 10 years from the date of their last encounter with a patient, or 10 years past the date of when the patient became the age of majority, which is 19 years of age in Nova Scotia, which ever comes last.

 

How do I transfer my medical records?

A physician will not automatically transfer your records to a different physician without your consent. Please contact your physician if you want your medical records transferred.

The Nova Scotia Personal Health Information Act states that no fees should be charged to a patient for a physician to physician transfer of medical records.

How do I access bloodwork or imaging records?

If you have a family physician, any bloodwork or imaging results should be held in their medical record.

If you don’t have a family physician and had bloodwork or imaging ordered from a walk-in clinic or emergency department physician, you can contact the facility where the procedure was performed.

If you are seeking records of bloodwork or imaging tests that were completed with the IWK or a Nova Scotia Health facility, you may contact the facility where the procedure was performed and their Medical Records Department can guide you on how to access these results.