Q&A: Withholding medical records

Steven I. Kern, JD

The author is a health law attorney with Kern Augustine Conroy & Schoppmann in Bridgewater, NJ, Lake Success, NY, and Philadelphia.

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Q: Is it legal to withhold the medical records of a patient who has an outstanding account balance?

A: As with most medical records-related issues, this one is state-specific, so the answer is, it depends. The states, as always, vary. Generally, however, if the record is needed for purposes of treatment, then it must be turned over. If the record is not needed for purposes of treatment, then you may be able to withhold the record pending payment of the patient balance, as if you had a lien on the record.