Medical records are protected by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). This act was put in place to limit the ways in which doctors, dentists, mental health professionals, insurance companies, hospitals or any other relevant entity can use or share your medical records. However if you are a dependent, spouse or a legal beneficiary of the person in question you have the right to access and view the medical records.
Gathering medical records can be a rather painstaking process, and in most cases there will be a nominal fee applied to each search for medical records. There is no single authority that stores and maintains medical records, so you will need to contact every provider individually.
Some offices will provide medical records with just a note requesting a copy along with some sort of identification. However, filling out a request form is the most common method of obtaining the records. In addition, there are rare cases in which institutions will not release any information without a court order or a freedom of information act request.
The most important thing to remember is to allow time for your request to be processed, due to the fact that medical records are private. If you are trying to gather medical records from hospitals and large medical office, expect to pay for the cost gathering and copying them.
If you are having difficulty obtaining medical records you may have to contact a disability attorney in order to obtain the proper permission. Due to the highly litigious nature of practicing medicine, some health providers may be uncomfortable with regard to releasing medical records, and a lawyer will often be able to speed up the process.