Washington state law (Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 70.02.080) addresses access to personal health care information as follows:
Patient's examination and copying — Requirements: (1) Upon receipt of a written request from a patient to examine or copy all or part of the patient's recorded health care information, a health care provider, as promptly as required under the circumstances, but no later than 15 working days after receiving the request, shall:
(a) Make the information available for examination during regular business hours and provide a copy, if requested, to the patient;
(b) Inform the patient if the information does not exist or cannot be found;
(c) If the health care provider does not maintain a record of the information, inform the patient and provide the name and address, if known, of the health care provider who maintains the record;
(d) If the information is in use or unusual circumstances have delayed handling the request, inform the patient and specify in writing the reasons for the delay and the earliest date, not later than 21 working days after receiving the request, when the information will be available for examination or copying or when the request will be otherwise disposed of; or
(e) Deny the request, in whole or in part, under RCW 70.02.090 and inform the patient.
(2) Upon request, the health care provider shall provide an explanation of any code or abbreviation used in the health care information. If a record of the particular health care information requested is not maintained by the health care provider in the requested form, the health care provider is not required to create a new record or reformulate an existing record to make the health care information available in the requested form. The health care provider may charge a reasonable fee for providing the health care information and is not required to permit examination or copying until the fee is paid.
To obtain a copy of your medical records;
1. Make a written request for a copy of your medical records, including x-rays.
2. Keep a copy of the request and be sure to specify what records you want and do not want – this will allow your medical provider to meet your request as quickly as possible.
Your medical provider has a duty under the law to provide you copies of your requested records or direct you to the place where those copies can be obtained within 15 working days. There are very limited circumstances under which a health care provider may deny you access to your medical records, which are explained more fully in RCW 70.02.090. However, even in some of those circumstances, you may authorize a different health care provider to examine and copy the records in order to provide you treatment.