Expanding Patients’ Property Rights In Their Medical Records

Expanding Patients’ Property Rights In Their Medical Records

By Laurence C. Baker, Mary K. Bundorf, Daniel P. Kessler
October 2014Working Paper No. 3292

Although doctors and hospitals own their patients medical records, state and federal laws require that they provide patients with a copy at reasonable cost. We examine the effects of state laws that cap the fees that doctors and hospitals are allowed to charge patients for a copy of their records. We test whether these laws affected patients’ propensity to switch doctors and the prices of new- and existing-patient visits. We also examine the effect of laws on hospitals’ adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) systems. We find that patients from states adopting caps on copy fees were significantly more likely to switch doctors, and that hospitals in states adopting caps were significantly more likely to install an EMR. We also find that laws did not have a systematic, significant effect on prices.