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Ask the Experts

Question:

My therapist is permanently leaving town and will not give me the notes she took during our sessions because, she says, they belong to the hospital in which I saw her.

Who owns the psychotherapy records that a patient's pscyhiatrist takes in a hospital setting?

Answered by: Paul Appelbaum

Although the physical record is owned by the hospital, patients have a right under applicable federal regulations to get copies of their records. The regulations implement the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and cover all facilities and providers who engage in a defined class of electronic transactions. Since it's unlikely that any hospital can avoid such transactions, it is almost certain that the hospital where you were treated is covered by HIPAA.

The regulations permit only a small number of exceptions to the disclosure rule, and require that you be given a written explanation if one of these exceptions is invoked.

In addition, you may have even broader rights to access under state law. You should be able to get a copy of your record by contacting the medical record department of the hospital where you were treated.