Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

Further to the discussion on another thread,

I'm not sure if all provinces in Canada are the same, but you have the right to visually inspect your record at least. Doctors have to abide by "privacy of information" Acts (keeping your information away from people who have no business to see it), but they also have to abide by various "access to information" Acts (allowing you to have access).

You also have a right to a copy, but some doctors will give you the run-around. I think they are embarassed by some of the unprofessional things they write in your chart, or because they haven't taken complete and good notes like they are supposed to. Another reason is that doctors are trained to think about protecting themselves legally, so they are protective of these records. In case of legal action, they need the records to defend themselves.

If a doctor is giving you the run-around, try going through a lawyer. The lawyer writes up a letter for you to sign, this is sent to the doctor, and your health record is sent to the lawyer who gives it to you. You will have to pay a small amount to the lawyer, and probably a larger amount (if you are in Ontario it seems) to the doctor's office for the trouble of photocopying the records. The benefits are that you don't have to talk to a snooty receptionist or paranoid doctor, beg or plead, justify and explain why you want copies, spend time doing all that, and get more stressed out. The lawyer handles it all. That's what I will be doing the next time I think I'm starting to get the run-around.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to justcurious)

I have a quick question about the College. They wanted me to sign these forms stating that I'm giving them the right to look over ALL my records. That's past, present and future??? Why do they need to know any future dealings I have with my family doc?

Should I abort this entire thing altogether. Have I sold my soul? Will I be damned for all eterneteeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Should I call up the investigator tomorrow and ask her to explain to me what that means in plain English?

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to dentalnightmare)


I will be seeing my family doc, tomorrow. I'm kind of worried about giving them free access to all my future records. What business it of theirs anyway? The funny thing is I already signed a standard form giving them access to my records. She sent a different set of forms to be signed. I wonder if this is standard procedure?

I feel like I'm being royally screwed. If I don't go on with this, it will appear like I have something to hide. If I do, then I'm giving these complete strangers access to all my future files.

That doesn't sound right to me. Any lawyers out there that can help me out?

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to dentalnightmare)

I looked at my copy (I already sent the original in the mail) and it states, past and present OR future. Dunno. I guess I'll have to call the investigator again. Grumble.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to justcurious)
Good morning

As far as I know all Provinces are the same. I have filed 2 complaints,in the last 7 years, winning one losing the other.

Here is the process. Yes you have to sign that and the Dr. you are complaining about will dig up EVERY bit of dirt on you from every conner of the earth (LOL) along with every file they can possibly find on you.

I was just telling NOOT that after doing my complaining I became black listed. The College does nothing. That was the reason I first joined this list. I was wondering how the College could get away with such crap. In the complaint I won, the doctor had to apologize to THEM but not to ME!!!!! I will say again to anyone who asks because if you do complain you will be black listed. I am sorry to this day I did it and wished it could have been different.

As for getting copies. Well I can share 1 story. My girlfriend was here for a while after she had her baby. She ended up with the same dr. i had filed the complaint against. Well when she moved and she needed her baby's imunization record, he charged her 30.00 for the one sheet!!!! Yes that was 30.00 not 3.00!!!!

I have obtained records from the ER, they were kind enough not to charge me. I obtained them from my Dr. and he also did not charge. Most do though now.

The College after your complaint has been filed will send you a copy of all your reports.

I am a nobody, just a very sick woman who has been trying to get well for 7 years and getting sicker all the time. I just want to warn you what goes on at the College. I do know of a Doctor here where a woman was pregnent with twins. She was in pain and went to the ER. This doc made her wait for hours till he showed up in the ER then dismissed her. You know us whinny and complaining women eh!!! Well she lost her twins. The story went public and he had to go take a course for a year. He is now back here believe it or not. That is the College for you and I urge you as I urged Noot, PLEASR PLEASE be careful!!! You will no further ahead just able to vent to them a bit. Better to do it here:)

Best wishes

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to noot)

Hi mushroom,

Nurses and doctors have told me what you have just written. They agree that I should be able to make a formal complaint against a specialist, but have told me that it will only make things worse and make it all the harder for me to obtain care. I feel badly for you and for noot. People wonder why I don't go to the media or to the college. Your post says it all mushroom.

Noot, I hate to advise you to stop the investigation, but getting early on may be a good idea.

Best wishes,

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to justcurious)I posted on another thread the cost our office charges for photocopying your file. We do this because there are normally not one patient requiring records but many. So some days you may have one person spending the morning photocopying records. In the ten years I've been in a medical office if you ask for a copy of your reports you were just seen about we do it with no charge. If you ask for a complete chart transfer we do it for a fee normally it's either because the patient is going elsewhere or they've decided they want copies which is fine I have never had to have a lawyer request a chart for a patient. We do make you sign a document and only you can pick it up. Obviously for confidentiallity reasons. It also depends on the doc. If you want a copy of thier notes they have to sign permission for that and most times it really won't do much good unless you can read thier handwriting. Now more offices are becoming completely computerized even docs notes which makes it easier for you to read. If during your visit you want to read the docs notes you must ask them not me I can't yes or no that question. Nor can we give test results over the phone or at least they shouldn't the reason being if it is something terrible and you get into an accident on the way we can be held accountable.
Any charges that a docs office charges you for photocopying goes by the guidlines the CMA sets for any charges a patient may pay cash for they are only guidelines and an office can charge more or less if they like. Look what a lawyer will charge you. Faxing, stamps, every little detail. You have the absolute right to have your medical records when you ask. The only difference is in radiology. You can't get your test results for an ultrasound from us because the results belong to the ordering physician and they are the only ones that can release that info to you but we will send a copy to any referring doc you ask us to. That's just how my office works.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to noot)

Sorry noot, can't answer your question because I don't know. But, asking the person at the College is a good suggestion.

Each province has its own College and they post different things on their websites, but the rules they follow are probably pretty much the same from province to province. You can learn things by visiting a different province's web page because they post information another province may not. You can also learn alot by reading the medical association websites for each province, for example, the BC Medical Association, the Alberta Medical Association, and so on. It helps you to see the whole thing from the doctor's point of view, and might explain, what appears to us, to be strange behaviours. Some post the fee schedules, such as the recommended fee to charge a patient for photocopying records.

Some college's post lists of doctors that have had actions against them, some don't. It's interesting to see how many there are each year and what the doctors have done that is so bad. That will give you some idea about whether your complaint will be successful. I know it's cynical to say, but in some provinces, it seems someone has to die first. Sexual improprieties are more commonly posted in one province than another. Also, in one province, it appears the College takes seriously doctors who refuse to hand over files to the College for investigation of complaints. So, if they won't hand over records to the College, you can expect they won't be wanting to hand them over to you either.

Iwillgoon: I had one office tell me they no longer had the records, too much time had past. I didn't know back then to check the laws and regulations to verify what they had said. It was probably a lie too.

I have heard that in other countries it is not so difficult to get your results. For example, after an x-ray/blood test, the patient is given the film/results and what they do with it is their business. They can take it somewhere for interpretation, throw it away, lose it, ----- it's the patient's responsibility. No one worries about the patient seeing a terrible result before the doctor does either.

I have also noticed that when a person goes to the emergency department in another country, copies of everything are given to you when you leave: x-rays, blood results, doctors notes. You don't have to ask. But this could be because you are a visitor in the country only.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to Mushroom)


Well, if this doctor wants to show me who's boss, then he has succeeded.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to Mushroom) I am totally confused about the "black listing" of patients. In 20 years of working in medical/surgical offices in Canada, I have never heard of this. I am unsure what constitutes "black listing". I have seen a couple of posters on this forum mention that they were not treated in an ER because of "black listing". I cannot imagine any physician refusing to treat a patient in an emergency just because the patient complained about another doctor to the College of Physicians and Surgeons (or whatever the case may be). What went on between a patient and a doctor who they complained about should have nothing to do with any other physician. I was curious as to how the doctor conveys to the patient that they don't want to see them, and what specific reason is given.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to roger_that)I don't know how an emergency room would know you complained about a doc to the college. Then I remembered where mushroom is from and it wouldn't suprise me in the slightest right mushroom. I would have to say mushroom is right on the money but you'd have to experiance the lifestyle down there to know what we're talking about. Got your email mushroom....it's great to keep in touch with people down home did you get my pic...

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to dentalnightmare)With all due respect, that is exactly what the Doc did to me!!! I won my complaint. The College made him apologise to THEM but not to ME!!!

I live in Nova Scotia

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to Mushroom)


I just saw my GP and told him what happened. I'm pleasantly surprised that he took it well. He was happy I confided with him about this. He also said it's important that this doctor's behaviour is dealt with.

He told me not to worry about it and let the College take care of it. If I have to appeal then that's my right. I told him that the investigator said that there may be a hearing after all.

I know the doctor and his family are upset by this but instead of using this as a learning experience, they are defensive. No-one likes criticism but if it prevents him from losing his job then he should see it as worth the hassle.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

I meant confided IN him.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to darlene388271)

Hi Darlene, yes I did get your pic and thanks:) I had a pic to send to you but I need to do it through my other email!!! I would love to keep in touch and maybe you guys can stop in when you are down this way!!

I did get black listed and as Darlene says this is a small community. They doctors all know each other. I have a copy of that one ER dr who I saw for a referal. He did not give it to me and as I said he lied on his report.He also said "watch out for her because she will probably complain about somebody else". So if I have to go to the ER that file is pulled!!!! Now ya see!!

Darlene I will try and send that pic:)

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to Mushroom)Absolutly well keep in touch and we will drop in for tea when we come down.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to dentalnightmare)
Yes I can believe that, that is why I warn people about complaining, the College protects their own!!!

I never wanted to rustle any feathers, I just want to get well and get my life back.

I have the most wonderful dentist but I know they are coverned by a body like that of the College, not sure what the procedures would be there.

Warmest Regards

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to CanadianDoc)

I've been to the ER 4x after a particular incident. I've had pretty good care but I had not complained about anyone. I'm sure I will be treated like crap, now, after my complaint so I'll avoid ERs altogether unless I have no other alternative.

Never felt so bad about this whole thing. I guess I could have kept quiet but that may allow this person to do it again. Seriously doubt it but you never know about these things.

Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to CanadianDoc)

Hi CanadianDoc,

I've been blacklisted by some specialists - actually and entire group, and I'm not a drug addict. I listen to my doctors and follow the advice and take my meds. My only crime was having an illness that was not been the book. One of the specialist in particular was extremely verbally/psychologically abusive to me I’d hope not to see him in the ER. He would tell the staff that I was faking pneumonia, etc, but how can you cover it up if the radiologists and others concur that you have it? I live in NS and like mushroom it makes getting care very hard and I do agree with Darlene that living in a smaller province can have its downfalls in this respect.


Re: Obtaining your medical record/chart/file - Canada

(In reply to Iwillgoon)

Hi There,

What is your e-mail address Iwillgoon?

Thank you,

I just found this American

I just found this American site (with all the Canadian doctors I've ever seen listed), after my family doctor ceased practising, and the whole medical-records issue subsequent to that cessation has caused me to become really scared about voluntarily engaging a new family doctor ever again. Don't get me wrong: I love our single-payer government healthcare system, and have visited the same family doctors, dentists, optometrists etc. for many years. Canucks can see any general doctor, clinic or hospital we want, rarely if ever see any kind of bill, and have some pretty good laws to protect our privacy and access to our records that the docs and hospitals create about us. Also, every government benefit program uses some form of rationing to prevent fraud, abuse or runaway costs (the US uses $ and HMOs; Canada uses the family doctor as gatekeeper for specialist referrals and behavioural management techniques by administrators similar to Japan's methods, which can be described as the use of social disapproval or name-calling), and so reliable stats for abuse by patients are pretty low here.

What has gotten me so scared lately is the sheer number of errors that I've recently found in specialists' correspondence to my last gatekeeper, none of which were copied to me because they consider referrals and results to be strictly a doctor-to-doctor matter. They don't consider it a patient's business because of a paternalistic mindset. I can't believe an OB/GYN, who was doing a follow-up after emergency surgery on a cyst (at one hospital, where I was ordered to go by a nurse over the phone), insinuated to my family doctor that I had "epilepsy". Since when does an OB/GYN examine, offer data about, or comment about a patient's brain chemistry? (No, I didn't have a seizure in his presence, and have never had one.) This was totally irrelevant to his area of expertise or why he was forwarded the referral - not to mention totally false; this word really shocked me. He is/was a member of a different major Toronto hospital, this record will be in that hospital's database, and calling that hospital's medical records department revealed that the staff there would deny my right to make a correction to the record. The person I spoke to told me that only the doctor(s) is allowed to do amend records. So I rang up that hospital's legal department, as they clearly need to educate their own colleagues about patient rights as per the 2004 (!!!) legislation called PHIPA (Personal Health Information Privacy Act).

Readers here (American and Canadian) should be forewarned that the profound cultural shift that is happening on both sides of the border -- and the impact of BIG DATA on the electronic medical records issue -- can have dangerous medical and legal consequences. I'm getting older, there's a lot of inherited illnesses in my family history, and I know I'm vulnerable to being hospitalized in an unconscious state (e.g heart, stroke, etc.) I'm sure the doctors would do their best to care for me, but if they have inaccurate information written by doctors..., Sorry, they're unlikely to believe me or other patients even if I(we) am conscious, due to the inherent and natural collegial affinity professionals have toward each other (i.e. this is a prejudice that elevates a colleague's opinion over a non-doctor's statements)... I've been considering writing a Medical Directive (or some such document, colloquially known as a Living Will for Healthcare), but once again, the chances of that being followed without the imprimatur of a lawyer (that I can't afford) is doubtful.

In addition, there is a growing business category, on both sides of the border, of records companies that specialize in medical records. Doctors here aren't allowed to charge the governmental insurance non-profit for the creation of medical records, but everyone and their mother would love to charge $ for access and control over carefully-guarded records once a doctor ceases practice, and logically doesn't want to pay for the legal storage requirements themselves if they've closed their businesses and aren't generating revenues from it anymore. Yes, I had a sales call from such a company 2 months ago; it started the FUD process for me because the salesperson had all this private info and she really, really, really wanted hundreds of dollars from me for a copy... I got a copy from elsewhere, but the details of that success made me feel like I was engaging in a surreptitious drug deal, and there is obviously more than one business entity with some or all of these records.

I also understand why doctors here are getting more nervous about getting sued for the often-derogatory and subjective comments they write in letters to other doctors, in addition to some of the totally illogical errors some specialists have written about me. However, I'm not about to sue, and what I care about the most is the accuracy of the data. I think most patients care about accuracy above all, and for their privacy to be protected so that inappropriate interpretations of data aren't mis-used in a way that could harm us. I'm now going to have to track down all the information several hospitals have about me and my health, probably put in a great deal of effort to educate the admin staff who, like the one from the hospital described above, would resist my efforts (and I'd run the risk of being labelled "abrasive" or some other pejorative), and thus end up in a situation that was worse than before.

It is in no one's interest to make people afraid to go to doctors. I was 15-16-year-old kid when a doctor yelled at me for wasting his time, even though he was getting paid and I was only obeying both my mother's and the school's directives to see him. 2-3 years later I ended up in a different town's emergency room with untreated strep throat that I'd successfully kept hidden for weeks - until I was in agony in the middle of the night. How's a teenager in the 70's supposed to know that untreated streptococcal pharyngitis is contagious (no one around me got it from me) and/or lead to rheumatic fever? To this day I have a morbid fear of being labeled a hypochondriac or irresponsibly wasting the taxpayers' dime, which has only increased due to the events of the last 2 months.

So, to any readers: please be aware of the laws and your rights, wherever you are - and take care to protect the chain of custody of records that could be used against you for $, blackmail, others' "security"... Also, please be aware that laws and/or policies won't always protect you, as one judge wrote, in Kraft v. ?, all the policies in the world could prove useless if the staff of that organization ignore them to do something completely different (paraphrased; substitute "laws" for "policies"). I'm the last person anyone would accuse of being anti-technology, anti-science, anti-medicine, or anti-law, but I have become more cautious and informed in this, my middle age, and as I always warned my son: NEVER give your true identity, other confidential info, or whereabouts over the Internet. I hardly ever share my stories online except to protect the public good, leaving others to exercise their will to ignore my advice or take it as worthwhile to them.

You don't need a lawyer.

You don't need a lawyer. There are three things you can look up on the Internet, print out, and include with your written request for records.

1. 1993 Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding ownership of medical information.
2. 1994 SCoC enforcement of its 1993 ruling.
3. Your provincial medical colleges guidelines for physicians and surgeons on the subject.

The information is yours and you have a legal right to it. The physical record is the property of the author, who must make a copy for the patient at a reasonable administrative fee, sometimes regulated by the Colleges.

MicOnTheNorthShore wrote: You

MicOnTheNorthShore wrote:

You don't need a lawyer. There are three things you can look up on the Internet, print out, and include with your written request for records.....

Thanks MicOnTheNorthShore... Good points to follow up on.

The following may help. It's from the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch:
SOURCE: http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Dial-A-Law/Scripts/Health-Law/421 [updated June 2012]

Getting Your Medical Records (Canadian Bar Association BC Branch Fact Sheet)
SOURCE: http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Dial-A-Law/Scripts/Health-Law/421
This script explains who owns medical records and the information in them, how to see your own medical records, and who else can see them.

Who do medical records belong to?
Many people think that their medical records are their own property, and that if they want to see them, they just have to ask. That’s only partly true. Your medical records actually belong to the doctor or hospital that made them, not to you. That’s also the case with dental records and nursing home records. But the information in the medical records belongs to you, and normally, you have a right to see that information. The records should include any treatment or procedure that went wrong because courts have said that doctors have a legal duty to give patients that type of information.
Medical records that your doctor keeps
To see the medical records your doctor has on you, just ask to see them. Your doctor has a privacy officer – usually the doctor – who will deal with your request. Under the BC Personal Information Protection Act, you have a right to see the information. And the doctor will normally show you the records or give you the information in them. You can also ask for a copy of your records, but the doctor may charge you a fee (set by the BC Medical Association) to copy them because medical insurance does not pay for this.

The law requires doctors to make sure the information in your medical records is accurate and to keep it private. If you think the doctor made a mistake in your medical records, you can ask him or her to make a new entry in the record about your concern. The doctor has to make a note of your request. But once medical information is recorded, it is not supposed to be destroyed or changed based on a patient’s request.

Rarely, a doctor may refuse to give you the information in your medical record, thinking that it could cause immediate or grave harm to your safety or to your physical or mental health. If that happens, and you can’t solve the problem with your doctor, contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. The College’s Complaints Department may be able to help you. The College phone number is 604.733.7758 in Vancouver and 1.800.461.3008 elsewhere in BC. Its website is www.cpsbc.ca.

If you still can’t solve the problem, contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC. The Commissioner’s phone number in Victoria is 250.387.5629. The website is www.oipc.bc.ca  and the email address is [email protected] Outside of Victoria, call Enquiry BC and ask for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. To reach Enquiry BC, call 604.660.2421 in the lower mainland and 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC.
Lastly, you can see a lawyer for legal advice on what to do.

Medical records that a hospital keeps
To see your hospital records, contact the medical or health records department of the hospital and ask for their information and privacy office or the person in charge of giving out information. If you make a written request, the hospital has 30 days to respond. Usually, you can see your hospital records and get a copy. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act covers hospital records. Check script 235, called “Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy,” for more on this law.

The law requires hospitals to make sure the information in your medical records is accurate and to keep it private. The law also gives you the right to ask the hospital to correct any errors or omissions in your records. The hospital has to make a note of your request. But once medical information is recorded, it is not supposed to be destroyed or changed based on a patient’s request.
If a hospital refuses to let you see your records, it must tell you why. If you disagree with the hospital’s decision, you can ask the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC to review it.

Lastly, you can see a lawyer for legal advice on what to do.

Are your medical records confidential?
Yes, in most cases your medical records are confidential. Doctors and hospitals must not give them to anyone else, except in certain cases: 
1. Other people who give you medical care, such as specialists, will need your medical records.
2. If you’re in a lawsuit about your medical history, your lawyer will need your medical records. Usually, doctors and hospitals will copy your medical records to your lawyer if you ask them to.
3. A court can order your medical records be shown to other people and lawyers in a lawsuit.
4. If you apply for life or health insurance, the insurance company will often need your medical records before giving you insurance.
5. Some types of jobs may require medical information. However, potential employers can get your records only if you agree to let them see the records.

Section 18 of the Personal Information Protection Act, which applies to doctors, lists other reasons for giving out personal information – some of them could apply to medical records.
Section 33 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which applies to hospitals, lists other reasons for giving out personal information - some of them could apply to medical records.
Both laws are on the following website: www.bclaws.ca.

Doctors also have to release medical information to authorities in certain cases. For example, they must:
report children at risk to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
tell the motor vehicle branch when a person's ability to drive may be reduced. 
tell police if someone’s life or safety may be at risk.
And if police have a search warrant, a doctor may have to release information to obey the warrant.
[updated June 2012]



You can have all the paper

You can have all the paper rights in the world, but if you have to pay hundreds of dollars to enforce your rights, then they're not rights. They are a privilege. Hiring a lawyer to do this would add another $200-300 per hour to the $220 the records storage company tried to charge me, and some of us have trouble affording food and rent.

keyb wrote: You can have all

keyb wrote:

You can have all the paper rights in the world, but if you have to pay hundreds of dollars to enforce your rights, then they're not rights. They are a privilege. Hiring a lawyer to do this would add another $200-300 per hour to the $220 the records storage company tried to charge me, and some of us have trouble affording food and rent.

Keyb, these are not simply "paper rights"; they are legal rights, enforceable anywhere in Canada. Any doctor in Canada who refuses to provide access to a patient of their chart with reasonable excuse and further, copies of the chart at a reasonable cost, is in contempt of the ruling. The provincial medical colleges have further defined what is "reasonable", both in terms of exclusion and of cost. Exclusion pertains to third party information and may only be claimed if it can be demonstrated by the doctor that release of such information might bring harm to the provider of the information, and a ruling of such may be sought by the provincial college. Nowhere are doctors granted fees for storing a chart required to be kept under the provisions of various medical legislation. They can charge you administrative time charges to make the copies, photocopy fees, and, a reasonable amount of a doctor's professional time to review your chart for disclosure. Typically, that is anywhere from nothing to thirty minutes.

The law in Canada is fairly straightforward on this issue, and one should not require a lawyer to assert their rights on this matter.

The 1992 case which gave rise to recognition of patients' rights to the information in their charts (not the physical record) was McInerney v. MacDonald [1992] 2 S.C.R. 138 (http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/884/index.do). The interpretation of that case by the Canadian Medical Association may be found at http://www.royalcollege.ca/portal/page/portal/rc/common/documents/bioethics/section2/case_2_1_1_e.html.

I've encountered outright refusal by a medical clinic in granting access to my chart, much less copies. I've found similar refusals by the same (cross Canada medical clinic franchise) in other locales. In my case, they had a change of heart following my mailing to them of the court decisions and the BC College's guidelines.

If you are hitting a brick wall with your doctor, email me at my RateMDs-username (at) gmail.com and let me know what province you are in, what you have sought in general terms, and your doctor's response. I'll see what I can do to help you gain copies of your chart at a reasonable cost.

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