How to Transfer Medical Records When You Move

You’re moving: How do you get your medical records?

Have you ever been to a new doctor and heard them say, “We’ll have to have your medical records transferred to this office?” Did you know that you’re entitled to those records, too? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows individuals the right to take their medical records with them and change providers when moving. In fact, getting your files before a move helps ensure that medical and dental care continues seamlessly. Learn more about your rights and how to transfer medical records when relocating.

Inside a hospital where you would go to transfer medical records.


Your right to your medical information: About HIPPA

In 1996, the federal government enacted the HIPAA Privacy Rule. HIPAA gives people the right to access, review and get copies of their medical records, whether they’re stored electronically or on paper. 

While you have the right to your medical records, keep the following in mind:

  • There are some stipulations on what individuals can and can’t transfer to a new physician. It’s best to talk to your doctor beforehand to learn what those are.
  • While these records contain your private health information, they do belong to the doctor — which means you don’t have a right to the originals, just the copies. It’s also important to remember that only you or a person you have authorized to represent you, are allowed to access to your health records. 
  • HIPPA states that your current provider or the party that holds your records cannot deny your request because of outstanding payments due, and they cannot charge for having to locate and retrieve the documents. They can, however, charge for a request to print and mail files or to upload and save them on a device like a thumb drive. If your physician keeps electronic records, it may be possible to access your information online with their permission and make copies.

Why it’s important to transfer medical records

Whether moving for work or school, retiring to a new area, or relocating to be closer to kids and family, moving out of state means having to switch providers. Because your new doctor or dentist won’t have any knowledge of your previous health history, they’ll need medical records as soon as possible.

It’s a good idea to schedule one last doctor visit before leaving to request a records transfer and to get an update on any current or recurring health conditions. Take detailed notes or bring someone else, if needed, to help remember everything the doctor covers — this makes it easier to discuss health conditions with the new physician. It’s also helpful to know that state laws vary regarding how long a physician keeps patient medical records on file, so consult with your doctor to find out if your records are current.

If you haven’t selected a new doctor or dentist yet, that’s OK. Go ahead and get a copy of your records so they’ll be ready when you choose new providers.

How to get medical records sent to new providers

The process of acquiring your health information is relatively simple. Here’s how it works:

Determine where to send the records

Either obtain copies or have them sent directly to the new provider (if one has been chosen). If you’re sending them to the new provider, be sure to provide the current provider with the correct mailing address and contact information.

Choose what you want

Elect to transfer the entire file, select parts, or just a summary. Be aware that transferring the whole file could take time and could be expensive because some physicians may charge by the page to print it.

Submit the transfer request

Some offices may accept a verbal request, while others may require a written notice to release or transfer medical records. Talk with your doctor to find out how to start the process.

Wait for the transfer process to complete

Times vary by state, but most providers process and transfer records within 30 days.

Keep your records safe after arrival

Once your previous provider transfers records, they are no longer responsible for keeping them safe. If you’re not sending them to a new provider right away, be sure to keep them in a safe place. If the records are:

  • In an electronic format — Keep them on a password-protected device.
  • On paper — Store them in a secure place like a bank lock box or a safe, and only release them to your new provider or parties you trust.


Have a question that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments below.

Still packing? Review our comprehensive moving checklist to help guide you through the moving process.