Who has the right to dental records?

Being related to the patient such as a spouse or sibling does not give you the right to be able to acquire dental or medical records without the signed consent of the patient on record.   A dental office reported that an irate husband came into the office demanding that he have his wife’s dental records and the record of her ledge or account.  Physically appearing in a dental office or other healthcare facility can be an intimidating tactic and many front office personnel give the person what they are demanding to get them out of the office.  Even if related this person is not entitled to receive protected information without a release or waiver signed by the wife in this situation.  If there is a signed waiver, never give original records to anyone, give only a copy.

Sometimes the demand is because of a divorce or separation and one spouse realized that they may be liable for outstanding debts such as a dental bill.  If you ask the person to leave and they refuse, they become criminal trespassers and can be arrested by the police.  Of course, no one wants this to happen in their office and hopefully this is a rare worst case scenario.

By understanding the HIPAA laws and rights of ownership of patient’s records you can confidently navigate this issue in practice management.



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