Changing to a Different Doctor

Archived Q&A and Reviews

My old pediatrican is charging me a fee to release records

July 2010

About 1/2 year ago, we switched from Bayside Medical Group to a new pediatrician. Ever since then, our new pediatrician has tried to retrieve our kids' medical records from Bayside -- to no avail. I signed release forms a couple times, but Bayside did not react. When my son recently was diagnosed with pneumonia and an ear infection I needed the records for his vaccination history and for the history on his recurring ear infections. I called Bayside and was told I could come by and pick up the records myself. When I did they charged my $40 for them. When I complained about this charge to my new pediatrician I learned that Bayside apparently does this a lot -- they ignore doctors' requests to release medical records to force parents to pick them up themselves in order to charge them a hefty fee. I am wondering if this is even legal -- aren't doctor's offices required to release medical information if a release form has been signed. And if I'm right about this, is there any place where I can complain? Thanks so much for any input on this! I feel the health care system is bad enough -- we don't need people to take advantage of patients any more. Fed Up With Bayside

The short answer is yes, any doctor can charge you for a copy of your medical record. And yes, they are required to give you your medical records if you ask them to in writing (there are a very few instances under the law where they can refuse to do so, but it's highly unlikely that you would fall under these categories, especially since you eventually secured the record). I forget the charges they are allowed to bill you, but it's something like $20 + $0.25/page. Often, doctor's offices will provide records to each other at no fee as a professional courtesy because it probably evens out in the end with all the records going back and forth. And, I know that the fee upset you, but when you consider that the doctor has to pay for someone to get your chart and copy it, it makes sense. what if 100 patients all asked for their charts at once? These costs in paper and staff time start adding up. And, yes, patients are being charged more than ever for health care, but remember that doctors are collecting far less than usual. Most offices will have a disclosure statement letting you know what their privacy rules are and how much they charge for these services (in fact, they might be required to). Also, there is a law as to how long an office has to release the records--I think it's something like 2 weeks. And, the office can legally ask for an extension--I forget the process for that. In the future, if you require a specific bit of information, you should ask just for that one bit of information. Eg: instead of asking for a copy of medical records (the whole chart), ask for the vaccination records. (probably only one page) irritating but legal

Yes, they can. Look up HIPAA law. Health care providers are required to show you your records but are allowed to charge you a ''reasonable fee.'' Don't even think about fighting this. Just be glad you switched. Most doctors won't charge even though they are allowed to. This one sounds like a loser. Anonymous

I can't offer help, but I had the same experience with Bayside Pediatrics. I was shocked that they would charge me for walking the files to my new pediatrician myself. When I questioned them about it I was told it was a fee for the copying of the files. After all of the incorrect billing charges and long waits for appointments, I have to say I wasn't that surprised. I will be interested to see if there is somewhere that we can complain. It is unfair to have to pay a fee or have them hold your child's files hostage. Anon

As a pediatrician I'm always quite pleasantly surprised when we actually receive the medical records we request from other medical offices. Kaiser often comes through eventually, but with most other offices we fax the request several times and never receive a thing. I can't answer your question specifically, but for others out there I recommend having a copy of the up-to-date vaccine record and any other really key information (growth chart is often nice) if you're going to be changing pediatricians. Don't expect that two medical offices will exchange information in an appropriate and timely manner, because sadly they seldom do. Dr. K

Hi, I used to go to Bayside. My experience is that the medical staff are disorganized, though some of the doctors and nurses are excellent.

You can save your immunizations for free in the State's immunization registry. See

You may be able to file a complaint with the DMHC, department of managed health care. I suggest documenting all requests to the doctor's office and sending it your former doctor (when you signed the waiver, how many calls were not returned) and asking for a refund. You should not have to pay for medical assistants not doing their job.

Bayside once charged a visit to my old insurance, even though I had given them my new card. Since the old insurance denied the claim, Bayside billed me for the visit. I informed them that the billing error was their fault and they needed to re-submit the claim to the correct plan. However, it had been 6 months by the time they informed me and Bayside claimed it was too late to resubmit the claim. Long story short, I left Bayside. Good luck! anon

My kids changed pediatricians and nothing of the kind happened. I have changed various practitioners over the years and have never had to pay for records.

I had a similar experience with Bayside. I have a foster child who was previously seen at Bayside, which is nowhere near my home. When she came to stay with me, I took her to a recommended pediatrician in my area. The new pediatrician's office called Bayside 5 times over a month to get the medical records, and even then the records weren't complete. I called Bayside myself to see if that would speed up the process - I needed the info for a preschool application - and was essentially hung up on. The feeling we got is that Bayside was pissed that the care had been transferred, so they were not going to cooperate. Nice, right? I hope there is some recourse for you. KC

Switching to a different pediatrician in the same practice

Feb 2008

Is it ok to switch to a different pediatrician that's in the same group as the current pediatrician? Or, is it like when you change hairstylists and have to go to a new salon? Thanks, anon

There is no need to switch offices. When you make your next appointment, just specify the new doctor's name, and if they ask, just say you think it would be a better fit for you and your children. It happens all the time, no biggie. anon

This may actually depend on the practice, but when I first interviewed my current pediatrician when I was pregnant with my first, she openly told me that all of the doctors in that practice work together, and if I ever wanted to switch doctors for personal reasons, there were no hard feelings. All of the doctors have very different personalities and styles, and sometimes you just find you 'mesh' better with another doctor. Or, as my boys get older, they might decide that they would be more comfortable with a male doctor. Personally, I wouldn't want to keep a doctor who would put his or her ego ahead of the needs of the patient anyway. anon

Not an issue. Just do it. We switched a couple of times as our daughter grew up. They're all busy enough -- and too professional to take it personally.

Most doctors are so busy it's unlikely they'd care or even notice. anon

I am a pediatrician and I think most of us totally understand that parents and/or kids sometimes have a better rapport with other pediatricians in the same office. Also sometimes as kids get older they don't feel comfortable with a doctor of the opposite sex and switch. I'd say stay in the same office with a new doctor. Wouldn't be offended

March 2005

My two children currently see the same pediatrician in a small private practice of 8 doctors. I have been considering switching them to another doctor in the same practice and wonder about the etiquette of doing so. Although their current doctor is a kind and competent pediatrician, I feel like I could be getting more out of our visits and have grown tired of hearing the same advice and anecdotes again and again each visit. We have seen other doctors in the practice when we've visited for drop-in care, and I do have one or two in mind that I feel are better choices for us. So my question is, how can I switch? Our current doctor has seen my children for about 1 1/2 years now. Do I just start making appointments with another doctor instead? What if they ask why I am switching? I don't want to offend our current pediatrician, but I just don't think he's a good match for us. Thanks anon

Just ask the new doctor if s/he will take your kids. We switched from male dr. to female when my daughter turned 10 and then changed to another female dr., all in the same practice. They're all busy enough that there's no problem and hard feelings.

I just did the same thing and had the same concerns. One of the nurses at my children's practice said the doctors ''don't care'' but the new doctor we switched to said that the doctors do sometimes take it personally. She suggested I write a note to the other doctor explaining the situation. That's what I did. I was honest about the switch, but also said many nice things about the doctor we were leaving b/c she was a nice person and a very competent doctor. I just felt that the new person would be a better fit for one of my children in particular. Liked both, but happy to have switched

If you'd like a wimpy way out, here's my advice. I just did something somewhat similar with my dentist office. There is a hygenist there that I don't particularly care for, but seem to have been ''assigned'' to. He's a nice guy, but there's just something about him that rubs me a little wrong. My husband and friend are ''assigned'' to a wonderful hygeinist! How jealous I've been! Since I'm a complete wimp about such things that really shouldn't matter, I took the wussy way out and found out which days he's not in the office and started scheduling all my cleanings for that day. I just avoid him. How wimpy am I? Will that work with the pediatrician? Can you find out his/her ''off'' day and start scheduling appointments on that day? After a few visits, it should seem completely natural to make the new doctor a permanent assignment. I know it really shouldn't matter...but.... -I'm a wuss!