What's the true cost to request a medical record?

Requesting medical records is a time consuming and often times frustrating experience. Especially for lawyers, law clerks, paralegals and other professionals that need detailed and complete medical records to provide the best possible service and get result for injured or wronged clients.

The most visible cost when requesting medical records are those charged directly by the healthcare provider for their time and effort to produce the request. We sampled 40,000 requests for data on the amount paid to healthcare providers and came to an average cost:


This accounts strictly for requests for clinical notes, health records and medical records. Requests may also be made for Medical Claim Histories (e.g., OHIP Billing Summary) which a flat $74 price tag. When including the cost of all requests made that average shoots up to $57.59 just for access to the record. And that's just the average. Depending on page count, number of records and the internal complexity of healthcare provider systems those costs can rise beyond $300 for a record request.

But there are a lot of tangible and intangible costs to requesting medical records like time and effort. Let's breakdown an average record request and quantify how much it costs to actually do the work requesting a record:

Compose initial request letter, obtain signatures and the initial send: $4.00 (time cost)

Follow up to ensure reception of the requests and payment (3 follow ups): $3.50 (time cost)

Diarizing work: $0.50 (time cost)

Postage and cheques to send cheques for payment: $0.85

Materials for request letter: $1.15

Quality check of records: $1.00 (time cost)

Scan records & upload to server: $2.00 (time cost)

Index to client: $0.50 (time cost)

Electronic storage of records: $0.15

Reporting and tracking requests: $1.00 (time cost)

That's a cost of $15.60 in labour and materials to complete the request in the perfect situation. That means no errors, connecting on every phone call, no on hold time, and no delay from the healthcare provider.

There are more intangible costs that deal with accounting time for hundreds of invoices for medical records each month.

The health records you now possess have either been faxed or mailed as paper records. That means the information is just a picture. Which means more work to go through hundreds of pages and match, categorize and order the records to be useful for their intended purpose.

Requesting medical records is not cheap and those costs can balloon extremely quickly if the request process isn't executed perfectly. It's also not easy to disburse these costs to opposing counsel because clerk time is generally not a disbursable expense. That means either the lawyer is assuming these costs themselves or it is cutting into their client's eventual settlement in costs.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a flat fee for the internal costs of all those medical record requests? Wouldn't it be even nicer if that flat fee could be disbursed to opposing council?