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During my recent extended hospital stay, I spent some time thinking about the kinds of records generated by healthcare, hospitals, and other medically related activities. A check of the records of Ancestry.com, searching by keyword "medical" reveals only 59 of the 31,312 that search term. Likewise, a search of the FamilySearch.org Historical Record Collections shows a similar paucity of responses. Considering the vast amount of paperwork generated by hospital visits, medical facilities of all kinds including the Veterans Administration and other organizations, it is surprising that very few of these records have made it into the genealogical record collections.
This is one area of investigation where the detailed information contained in the records could be invaluable for showing family connections or for establishing paternity, cause of death, or even burial location. So how would we go about finding medical records?
I would suggest, that we begin by assuming that the records exist. It is true, that the vast bulk of these records would be concentrated in the last 100 years or so. But it is not inconceivable, that some of these records may be found for earlier times. Healthcare records are similar to other commercially created records such as insurance records, mortuary records, business licenses, and other such related records. One major difference, is that medical records can contain clearly personal, and at the time, confidential information about individuals and families. For more recent records, in the United States and other developed countries, access to these records can be extremely restricted. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain court ordered access.
In many cases, you may find that medical records are kept for only a relatively short period of time. Here is an article entitled "Getting Medical Records and Information" that gives a good outline of the methodology for finding medical records. If the medical records were kept by a government agency such as the Veterans Administration or one of the Armed Forces and is very likely that the records still exist.
Even staying in the hospital, can have some benefits by giving an insight into the types of records which may become available after a thorough search.