Who Owns Your Electronic Medical Records? PicnicHealth Explains

the PicnicHealth Team
March 26, 2020
Blog post originally written by the AllStripes community team. AllStripes was acquired by PicnicHealth in 2023.

At PicnicHealth, we believe few things are as essential as having complete control over one of the most private and personal forms of information: your medical records.

Health records and medical records tell an intimate story of our bodies’ illnesses, strengths, weaknesses, the procedures we may have undergone, and the prescriptions we have. They hold so much personal information that they’re heavily protected by law, tying them into the bounds of doctor-patient confidentiality. They’re a need-to-know kind of information and the kind that no one but the patient should have real control over.

Yet many people still ask, what are my electronic medical records, and what are my rights with them?

What is an Electronic Medical Record?

The way the medical field now handles medical records has transformed. With the rise of the digital age, charts, prescriptions, and other medical paperwork have been digitized for easier processing and sharing. An electronic medical record (also known as an electronic health record) is a digital compilation of your health information. In many ways, it’s superior to the ink and paper charts we’ve been used to seeing.

What you’ll find in an EMR

A medical record consists of any documentation from a visit to a healthcare professional. It includes doctor’s notes, vital signs, treatment history, drugs prescribed, progress documentation, test results, imaging, and even administrative data. An electronic medical record is the portion of your medical records that are in digital format, which may not include everything that was traditionally in paper medical records—especially retroactively. Electronic medical records are generally housed in a software system used by a doctor or hospital; since there are many different systems providers use, the records from one office usually won’t include any of the records from another office. So your records from each doctor or hospital often exist in different systems.

This leads to the critical question: Who actually owns them?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule

It’s natural to assume that the patient automatically takes ownership of records about their own health. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the original physical medical record is the property of the physician’s office that generated it. However, the data on the medical records are the property of the patients themselves.

This ownership is why patients are allowed to have a copy of their records, but not the originals themselves. Healthcare facilities themselves are required to carefully protect these medical records and prevent them from getting into the hands of unauthorized personnel. They may also charge patients a fee for obtaining a copy of those records.

A Variety of Laws

Every state may have a different law with regards to who gets to own the medical records. Only New Hampshire has actually given patients sole ownership of their data. For the most part, the developments in digitalization have enabled patients to gain better access to their information regardless of where they are located.

The laws that govern medical records mostly refer to patients’ privacy, security, and accuracy. However, once that data is put into physical or electronic form, the healthcare provider becomes the legal custodian of it.

What does ownership really mean?

It’s not a matter of who has the “original” copy, but who truly owns the data on it. That remains with the patient. Patients have the right to view their data and get copies (in virtually any format), and they can also request changes to the health information as needed. More than 80% of patients say that things are more accessible now than ever before—yet there is still a long way to go until all systems can transfer data seamlessly to ensure a patient’s different doctors all have access to the information they need to provide the best care.

Ultimately, patients have tremendous power over their medical records in terms of accessibility. They just don’t technically “own” the records themselves.  

Want to get better access to all your medical records? Visit PicnicHealth.com and learn about how you can get full control over your records in a single digital timeline of your all medical records.


the PicnicHealth Team

About PicnicHealth

Empower people to own their medical records. Advance medicine. We’re a passionate group of doctors, patients, data nerds, engineers, and builders, who believe in making something real that changes lives today and in the future.

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Create a List

List the names of all the doctors, hospitals, and other facilities your loved one visits regularly, along with those they have visited in the past. Try to go back as far as you can, striving for at least the last 5-10 years, but do your best. Even if you can’t remember them all, having a strong baseline can help you quickly identify gaps in records.

Ensure You Have the Appropriate Legal Status

It is important to make sure that you are fully empowered to make decisions on behalf of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Your relationship status with the patient may not be enough to legally give you access to your loved one's medical information. It is a good idea to talk to an expert about securing special legal status, such as Power of Attorney (POA), a legal document that allows an individual to name someone as their decision maker should they no longer be able to make decisions on their own.

Gather and Organize the Medical Records in One Place

It’s important to have all of your loved one’s medical records together in one spot. This makes it much easier for you and your loved one’s physicians to accurately map the patient’s medical journey and more easily share information between doctors. Fortunately, tools exist to make record management and access simple. A free resource like PicnicHealth helps you collect and organize all of this information. PicnicHealth’s intuitive timeline allows you to pinpoint data across the medical history, eliminating your need for keeping heavy binders filled with paper records or keeping track of multiple software portal logins.

Review the Medical Records to be an Informed Advocate

The better you understand your loved one's medical history, the better you can advocate on their behalf. Access and understanding of this information will help you to ask informed questions with physicians. Through regular communication backed by the data in the medical records, you can help your loved one’s care team develop a more successful care plan.

Learn more about PicnicHealth’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s community and the Alzheimer’s Association

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Together, we can make a difference.

Learn more about PicnicHealth’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s community and the Alzheimer’s Association

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Build a support network.

When you’re juggling appointment times and insurance claims, putting a robust support system together might not strike you as the most urgent task. Investing the time to cultivate relationships with people can turn to in times of need will pay dividends. The next time you need a last-minute ride or just someone to listen, you won’t be on your own.

There are many condition-specific support groups and support groups for caregivers generally in person or online. In addition to the encouragement and empathy they provide, support groups can be a helpful source of tips, resources, and recommendations for navigating caregiving.


Stay organized.

The backbone of effective caregiving is organization. Keep medical information, appointment schedules, and medication lists in order. Use a planner or a digital service like PicnicHealth to stay on top of your responsibilities. This attention to detail can prevent future complications and reduce day-to-day stress.


Explore treatments and clinical trials.

We’ve seen incredible breakthroughs in treatment over the past couple of years, powered by patients and their caregivers participating in research. Stay in the loop about the latest in medical advancements and available resources that could benefit your loved one. Whether it’s a new therapy option or a community service that aids independence, being informed can make a world of difference in the quality of care you provide.


Make time for self-care.

It may seem self-centered to focus on self-care—but when you feel good, you can be a better caregiver. Whether it’s exercise, a mindfulness practice, a soak in the bath, or just time to rest when you need it, carve out those moments in the day when you can unwind, reset, and stay healthy mentally and physically. Think of it as building up your reserves of kindness, patience, and understanding—which can only benefit your loved one. No one can pour from an empty cup.

Having trouble managing your loved one's medical records?

Easily manage all of your loved one's medical records and contribute to ongoing Alzheimer's research with PicnicHealth.

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LC-FAOD Odyssey: A Preliminary Analysis, presented at INFORM 2021

Data from real-world medical records:

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

16 yrs old

Median age at enrollment

38% Female

15 providers / patient

7.5 years of data / patient

Data from patient-reported outcome (PRO) survey

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

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However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of protein for your individual needs. In general, a diet with moderate protein intake (about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day) is recommended for people with kidney diseases.

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