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What Is a Medical Record

Written by   Updated June 25, 2024

A medical record is a significant document that documents a patient’s health. It includes their medical history, present conditions, previous testing, prescribed medications, and other pertinent information.

It is an essential tool for healthcare professionals to offer high-quality care, guarantee treatment continuity, and promote efficient team member communication.

Additionally, medical records are essential to the billing and payment procedures in the healthcare industry as proof of the services provided to patients.

What’s in a Medical Record?

The contents of a medical record typically include:

  • Patient Information: Name, age, gender, contact info, insurance.
  • Health background: Past sickness, surgeries, allergies, family history.
  • Doctor’s notes: Assessments, progress, tests, treatments.
  • Medicine info: Prescriptions, how much, how often, allergies, reactions.
  • Test results: Blood tests, X-rays, scans.
  • Letters: Referrals, consultation notes, discharge summaries.

Who Can See My Child’s Medical Records?

Usually, parents or legal guardians can see a child’s medical records. But sometimes, other people or groups might get access, like if the child is legally considered an adult or if a court says so.

Can My Doctor Outside of U of M Access My Records?

If the patient agrees, doctors outside the University of Michigan (U of M) can check their medical records. This helps everyone involved in their care work together better and make the right choices for the patient’s health.

May I Have Copies of My Medical Records?

Patients can ask for copies of their medical records. This helps them understand their health. They can use the records to get another doctor’s opinion or change to a different healthcare provider if they want.

Is There a Charge for My Records?

While federal law allows healthcare providers to charge a reasonable fee for copying medical records, certain states may have specific regulations regarding fees. Patients are encouraged to inquire about the cost beforehand.

How Can I Get Copies of My Child’s Medical Records?

If parents or legal guardians want copies of their child’s medical records, they can call or visit where they are kept. They might have to show some papers proving they’re the child’s guardian and fill out a form to ask for the records.

The Right to Amend or Update Your PHI (Protected Health Information)

Patients can request amendments to their protected health information (PHI) if they need to be revised or completed. Healthcare providers must review and, if necessary, make the requested amendments or provide a written explanation for the denial.

For Medical Professionals

Management of Medical Records: Facts and Figures for Surgeons

Good medical record management is crucial for surgeons and other healthcare workers. It helps them access critical information quickly, collaborate well with other teams, and reduce legal problems.

Objectives of Maintaining Medical Records

The primary objectives of maintaining medical records include:

  • Medical records help everyone understand how patients are being taken care of.
  • They help doctors and nurses talk to each other better.
  • They make sure care stays the same when patients move between places.
  • They help doctors decide what treatment is best.
  • They make sure everyone follows the rules and laws.

Altering Medical Records

Altering medical records is strictly prohibited and constitutes unethical and illegal behaviour. Any modifications to medical records must be documented with the date, time, reason for the change, and the individual’s identity.

Who Has Access to Medical Records?

Only people who are supposed to can look at medical records. This includes doctors, nurses, office workers, insurance companies, and people who ensure everyone follows the rules.

Release of Records

Medical records can be given to other people or groups if the patient says it’s okay or the law says they have to. Ensuring everything is done correctly and written down is essential to following the privacy rules.

Care while Issuing Certain Medical Records:


Prescription records should be accurately documented, including the medication name, dosage, frequency, route of administration, and prescribing physician’s information. Electronic prescribing systems enhance efficiency and reduce the risk of errors.


Clinical reports, such as laboratory results, imaging studies, and pathology reports, should be promptly documented in the patient’s medical record. Clear and concise reporting ensures accurate interpretation and facilitates clinical decision-making.

Referral Notes

Referral notes document the reason for referral, relevant medical history, and specific instructions for the consulting provider. Timely communication and collaboration between referring and consulting physicians optimize patient care outcomes.

Discharge Card

Discharge cards give patients essential information, including follow-up appointments, medication instructions, dietary recommendations, and emergency contact numbers. Clear and concise discharge instructions promote continuity of care and patient safety.


Certificates, such as death certificates, birth certificates, and disability certificates, should be accurately completed and documented in the patient’s medical record. Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements is essential when issuing certificates.

How Long to Maintain the Records

Healthcare providers must retain medical records for a specified period, typically dictated by state and federal regulations. The retention period may vary depending on the record type and jurisdiction, ranging from several years to indefinitely for specific documents.

How to Destroy the Records

Properly disposing of medical records is important to keeping patients’ private information safe. According to the law, healthcare providers must follow the rules for shredding, burning, or deleting paper records from computers.

Problem of Record Management

Inefficient record management can lead to various challenges, including:

  • Incomplete or inaccurate documentation
  • Difficulty accessing critical information promptly
  • Increased risk of errors and adverse events
  • Non-compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Legal and financial liabilities for healthcare organizations

Proper preservation of medical records involves:

  • Making sure patient information is managed well using electronic systems.
  • Having clear rules for how to write down information.
  • Teaching healthcare workers how to keep records correctly.
  • Checking medical records often to make sure they’re right.
  • Following the rules to keep patient information safe and private.


Medical records are:

  • Invaluable assets in healthcare.
  • Serving as a comprehensive source of information for patient care.
  • Billing.
  • Legal purposes.

Knowing how to manage medical records is essential for doctors, patients, and people who handle medical bills. It helps ensure patients get good care, everyone follows the rules, and money is managed well. By doing things the best way and using technology, healthcare groups can make more money and help patients better, all while keeping their information private. WeCare Billing LLC is dedicated to helping doctors with this so they can focus on giving great care to patients.

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