Doctors are obliged to ensure patients can access their history, but there's no law against giving files to a private firm, says the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.
And that means doctors have little say over how much private companies charge patients for medical records.
A Thunder Bay woman learned that lesson the hard way after she was asked to pay $600 dollars to access her files after her family doctor closed his practice.
"We don't have any authority over them or what they charge," said Jill Hefley, associate director of communications with the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.
"We do encourage patients to talk to them about costs if they do have concerns."
Success resolving complaints
The office of the Commissioner for Information and Privacy in Ontario said there are guidelines and controls on fees for accessing records.
Assistant commissioner Brian Beamish said under the law, health care providers must charge "reasonable" rates.
"A private company that's storing health files on behalf of a professional are acting as the agent of the health professional," he said. "[It]
would be bound by the same rules in terms of what they can charge."
Beamish said his office can advocate for anyone who feels fees are unfair and added his office has had success resolving complaints.
Hefley also noted that, if people feel they're being unfairly charged, they should complain to the College.
"Physicians do have an obligation to make sure patients do have access to their records if their practice is changing," she said.
"So if they're retiring, they need to notify their patients that that's occurring and how they can access their records."