So what happens if you're in this situation? I can speak from my personal experience and the experience of a few patients I've helped. I had put in a verbal request for records with my orthodontist a month or two before leaving his office. I never was able to get my full records, and for various reasons, I really wanted them. I also wanted my new orthodontist to have them in case there was anything to help give them an idea of where things were and then plan my new treatment from there. I told my new ortho that I was having trouble obtaining my full records. They filled out this AAO form, faxed it to my old ortho, and then I was eventually able to get "full" records. I say "full" records because it wasn't full at all. A lot was missing (like, anything regarding my surgical planning, notes, times/dates of when my ortho/surgeon talked, etc, etc) and I was told they just don't keep things like that. And in case anybody reading this is wondering, yes, that is illegal too. Doctors follow a certain medical care standard of what is kept and what isn't kept, and almost everything gets kept. Some things are required to be kept longer than others, but most things get kept. Especially important treatment notes on a major surgery and said planning and discussion for it. I kept the AAO form, the date/time I faxed it, the date/time I got my records finally in my hands. This has become especially useful now, 2.5 years later, when the CA Dental Board is investigating my first set of doctors and they can possibly see fines and dings on their records for not meeting the standard of care set forth when it comes to dealing with records.
I was fortunate that my orthodontist did not try to hold my records hostage from me in exchange for anything. Instead they just held them for me for.... I don't know what... but at least I finally got what I could. At the time I was consulting with a lawyer about everything, and he was the one to give me a heads up that more than likely my ortho was going to try to slip in a note releasing all liability in exchange for my records and I was to not sign it. Luckily I didn't run in to that at all, which looking back on it now, is VERY surprising. Not only that, but my ortho called me within minutes of them getting an official transfer notice from my new ortho and they offered up a full 100% refund of my $8300 treatment cost with their office. Again, I got incredibly lucky there.
So, do not let your doctor bully you. Your records are legally yours. They HAVE to give them to you. If you feel like you are being done over on your records, look up information for your states licensing board and file a complaint with them. More than likely it's illegal. In CA you have X days to give a patient their records after request. If a complaint is filed and it's found you were past the timely date of records release, you can be fined X dollars per day for every day you were late. Don't let them get away with it. A good doctor will have no reason to want to cover their tracks and hold your records. Do NOT be gagged!! Do not sign anything that will release liability and gag you from talking. That is bullshit. Don't let it happen. Look out for numero uno here. Don't worry about hurting the feelings of the nice lady working at the front desk in the office if you have to call and talk to her about this. She understands. It's just business. Stay polite, yet be firm. Like everything else in this process, sometimes we need to be advocates for ourselves. Unfortunately this is one of those instances. Keep good notes on everything. Dates/times of your requests and copies of all exchanges and faxes. It may help you later down the line. Keeping detailed notes and keeping good records has for sure helped me in more ways than one through this journey!