To Sign or Not to Sign:
What to Look for in Medical Release Forms

by Karen Scallan

signingTaking care to insure the privacy of your personal medical information is important. Here are some tips for releasing information to various entities and what you should look for when signing medical release forms. These forms allow a doctor, hospital, school, or other organization to release your child’s medical information to another organization.

1. Is there an expiration date?

Some organizations have no expiration date on their medical release forms. Release forms without expiration date could mean that the organization has full access to your child’s medical record forever or until it is revoked in writing. It is important to understand this before signing a release with no expiration date.

2. How long should the release be good for before expiration?

This depends on the organization releasing the information. You may consider giving a school district a more extended time if they are working on an evaluation, particularly an initial or full re-evaluation. This will allow them enough time to get what they need. In general, two or three weeks should be sufficient unless you have the kind of doctor that has a full work load (or procrastinates on these things). You can extend this to a month if the school is conducting an evaluation since the medical release isn’t necessarily the first thing they work on for the evaluation.

3. Some school districts request families to have a medical release form on file for the school year.

In this instance, you would be giving school personnel authorization to contact your child’s doctor at any time during the school year or calendar year, whichever is noted on the release. Release forms should be done for specific reasons and the reasons should be stated in the forms. The exception to this would be in the case of Head Start or medical case management that needs to work with families and doctors in making sure children have all their well-child visits and are receiving appropriate medical care. Data is collected in these programs and access may be needed year round.

4. Create your own medical release form or edit the one you received from school or another organization.

Edit the one they give you by hand, or take their form and retype it, editing it to include only what you want them to release.

5. Consider contacting the doctor yourself.

You can ask the organization exactly what they feel they will need in the way of medical information. Ask them for a list and get the information from the doctor yourself. If they have a prepared form for the doctor, you can take it to your pediatrician yourself to have it completed or mail it in to the doctor with a request that it be mailed directly to you. This way you can monitor the communication between the school district or other organization and your doctor.

6. Call your doctor directly and voice your concerns.

If you have concerns about the doctor’s staff communicating with school personnel inappropriately, speak up.

7. Request that your doctor’s office contact you any time they receive a medical release form.

Explain to the doctor what, if any, problems or issues you are having with the school district or other organization. Consider including in the medical release form a statement that says that the doctor’s office must contact you before releasing any information.

Author: Karen Scallan • Date: 1/9/2012

Additional Resources

For more information on this topic or other related topics, contact the Louisiana Family to Family Health Information Center at 1-800-331-5570 or visit to find the Family to Family Health Information Center near you.

About the Author

Karen Scallan began advocating for children with special needs when her son Kevin was born 10 years ago. She is a former member of the Ochsner Foundation Hospital Pediatric Advisory Board, former president of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater New Orleans and has worked with various family-driven non-profits advocating for children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities. She is the Program Director for the Louisiana Family to Family Health Information Center, which serves Louisiana’s families of children and youth with special health care needs by supporting them in accessing family-centered care for their children and in navigating complex systems of care.

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