Massachusetts/USA here. I had a EMG a few days ago and scheduled a followup with my doctor for later in the month (about 3 weeks from now). I am very anxious to hear the results.

I just called and the nurse/assistant was able to confirm that the results are ready, but she said that she isn't allowed to read them to me, and that I will have to wait until my scheduled appointment (again, 3 weeks from now) with the doctor.

I call bologna! Can they do this? I would think some provision in HIPAA or otherwise would entitle me to immediate readings of the results. What are my options here?

  • 3
    I think in this context (that is, not food), the preferred spelling is "baloney." The thing is that they can't give results over the phone because it is poor practice to give people bad news by telephone. Also it is probably required that you receive your results from a doctor rather than a clerical worker or nurse. Presumably, the the doctor can't see you before the scheduled appointment. I agree that it's absurd to make you wait. One option would be to get sick and schedule an urgent care appointment with the doctor.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 15:31
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    Thanks @phoog (+1) - I understand what you're saying, but those sound like internal policies to me. I'm asking whether I'm legally entitled to receiving the results right now, or if the law (HIPAA, etc.) entitles them to a certain "window of time" in which to disperse said results.
    – smeeb
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 16:46
  • Related: law.stackexchange.com/questions/1115/… Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 18:21
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    I'd be pretty surprised if the law entitles you to get results immediately. It seems to be a pretty well-established tenet of medicine that significant results are best delivered by a professional who can explain them, preferably in person. I would doubt that a legislature would step on the toes of the medical establishment by overriding that. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 19:44
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    Hipaa is about protecting your privacy while granting your new doctor (should you have one) access to your old results -- it does not do anything for you and access to the result -- if anything it will prevent the admin staff and receptionist access to your data (so they cannot tell you only your doctor can)
    – Soren
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


According to an HHS guide entitled "Individuals’ Right under HIPAA to Access their Health Information", HIPAA does entitle you to access your medical records; however, the medical provider has 30 days to respond to your request. See the section on "Timeliness". So if the doctor wants to withhold the information until your appointment in 3 weeks, it looks to me like they are legally entitled to do so.

Massachussets law has some similar provisions which are linked from the state court system's page on medical privacy. But as far as I could tell, they also only set a 30 day window, and it only applies to requests that are related to a claim for Social Security or a similar program.

It doesn't appear that the law is on your side here. You might have more luck just trying to reschedule your appointment for an earlier date, or letting them know that you would take an appointment on short notice in case they have a cancellation.

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