This study examines the response rate to requests for previous records on adult psychiatric outpatients and the usefulness of the records received. Usable records were received in response to only 64.6 per cent of requests. In 40.9 per cent of the records examined, previous records revealed important information which had not been gathered at the time of outpatient evaluation. Possible reasons for the rate of response are discussed. The authors conclude that important information can be missed during the process of evaluation and that previous records may significantly add to the available data base on which to make diagnostic and treatment decisions. However, not infrequently requests for previous records are not answered.