FAQ: Medical or Other Vital Records
Question: Where can I get a copy of my medical records, or birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificates?
The National Library of Medicine doesn’t receive or maintain medical records or certificates. Note: Personal health records are not necessarily the same as medical records maintained by your providers.
We suggest the following to locate medical records:
- If you have a health plan, contact your health plan to ask about copies of your current medical records.
- If you know the doctor or place where treatment was provided but don’t have contact information, consult a physician or hospital directory at a public library or on the Web, or ask a librarian to help you find contact information.
- If an earlier physician’s name is unknown, a patient's current physician may have copies of older medical records.
- If another physician took over a practice, ask about your records.
Institutions may have standard forms you need to use; and you may need to get your identify certified to protect your privacy. Make your request for any medical records clear. Include details about your identity and other information to help locate the records, such as:
- date and place of birth
- parent names
- dates and place of treatment
- doctor names
In general, records stay where they are created unless state or federal laws or regulations require something else. If a doctor is part of a practice, the records belong to the practice according to the American Medical Association.
More ideas for getting your records are at the Center on Medical Record Rights and Privacy, based at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. This work was funded by National Library of Medicine Grant G13 LM 8312.
The U.S. Office of Civil Rights indicates that HIPAA regulations do not include medical record retention requirements.
- In the United States, you are entitled to information in your medical record according to the Federal law.
- The actual record may belong to the health care provider or the practice, though, according to Privacy and Security Rules.
- You have the right to ensure the information in your record is correct. If you find an error, you can ask a health care provider to correct the information.
States generally have additional rules about the retention of and access to your medical records. Contact the individual state office of health, especially if the place of treatment no longer exists. The American Hospital Association offers an interactive State, Regional, and Metropolitan Hospital Associations map.
Immunization and Vaccination Records
Some areas have central immunization registries that keep electronic records of all vaccines given in that area. Check the state immunization coordinator contact information for the state(s) where the child lived.
U.S. veterans' and military personnel medical and health records are in the National Archives from the Revolutionary War until 1912. Records since 1912 are at the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC), in St. Louis, Missouri.
Birth, Death, Marriage, and Divorce Certificates
An official certificate of every birth, death, marriage, and divorce should be on file permanently in a state vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office of the state where the event happened. Check Where to Write for Vital Records from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics to locate the office you need.