The real cost of transferring medical records

As they say: don’t sweat the small stuff

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Q: I’m transferring from one medical doctor to another and was told it would cost me $120 to have my file photocopied and transferred. Is this normal? And is this a fair price?

—Rona K., Toronto

A: Doctors can charge a “reasonable” fee to transfer your medical records, according to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The fee is intended to cover the material itself, the time it takes to assemble it all and the direct cost of sending it to the new physician. While the fee isn’t defined, the guideline is $30 for the first 20 pages and $0.25 for every page after that. Doctors are also advised to take into account the patient’s financial situation. If your file is short, the $120 fee might be high and, as such, you can call your doctor and ask them to reduce it. If that doesn’t work and you’re really steamed about it you can file a formal complaint with the College. However, I used to live in the United States and I still feel grateful for the relative bargain we have with Canadian health care. If I were you, I’d pay the fee, move on and raise a glass to good health for you and your family.        

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4 comments on “The real cost of transferring medical records

  1. Ugh. We’ve got to move towards electronic medical records.


    • I agree that, in principle, electronic medical records make sense and seem like the way to go. However I seem to recall that we tried that in Ontario a few years ago with it turning into an expensive boondoggle. Of course, that was with the Liberals at the helm, and it seems they cannot administer anything without it turning into a fiasco costing taxpayers millions. Perhaps if we had a different government things that make sense would work out like they should. I’m not sure the NDP are up to managing the tax dollars, given the experiment we tried in the early 90s with Bob Rae, so that only leaves one choice. Perhaps it is time to give them a try again? At least we never had the financial fiascos and downright frauds with them in power.


  2. Great news – you can finally access all of your medical records online through a new Toronto-based company – Check them out!


  3. It seems these days our trusted doctors are just looking to charge patients because they can. Apparently there are rules that they don’t like to follow. Please check the following links.
    Fees for Transfer
    Physicians may charge patients a reasonable fee for making a record of personal health information, or part of it, available. Fees charged must reflect the cost of the materials used, the time required to prepare the material and the direct cost of sending the material to the requesting physician. Fees charged cannot exceed the amounts prescribed by regulation or the amount of “reasonable cost recovery.” 29 This requirement applies regardless of whether access is provided directly by a physician or an agent of the physician, such as a record storage company.

    While prepayment may be requested, physicians must ensure that their practices adhere to the applicable sections of PHIPA and orders of the IPC. A fee for a transfer of medical records may only be requested after a fee estimate has been provided to the patient 30 and when, in the best judgment of the treating physician, the patient’s health and safety will not be put at risk if the records are not transferred until payment is received. Physicians are encouraged to consider the patient’s financial circumstances and ability to pay when determining the appropriate fee.

    The obligation to pay the account rests with the patient or the party who has requested the records. Fulfilling such a request is an uninsured service and reasonable attempts may be made on the part of the physician to collect the fee.

    1. Cost of the Provision of the Copy of Medical Records
    The OMA recommends physicians charge $30.00 for the first 20 pages and $0.25 per page thereafter for
    the reasonable cost of copying, printing, reproducing or transmitting medical records, including electronic
    medical records (EMR), when the EMR (or portions of) are printed on paper20. This amount includes
    clerical labour costs, equipment lease or amortization costs, print volume fees, toner and paper costs,
    secure electronic storage media costs, equipment maintenance costs, office lease costs for equipment
    and secure record storage space and other costs of a similar nature.
    2. Out-of-pocket Disbursements
    In addition to the actual copying or printing costs, the physician may charge for any out-of-pocket
    disbursements directly related to the request for the provision of copies of the medical records. Examples
    of such disbursements include fees for the retrieval of the medical record from storage, postage, courier
    and/or long-distance fax charges for delivering the records to the patient.


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