While everyone has a right to see his or her medical records, actually obtaining a physical copy of any medical document has long been an exercise in frustration. Sometimes, miles of red tape, stringent HIPAA laws and healthcare providers drowning in paperwork cause a delay. Other times healthcare providers are afraid that notes and potential diagnoses will upset patients. Regardless of the reason, new guidelines from the Obama administration just made it much easier to access your medical records. While everyone has a right to see his or her medical records, actually obtaining a physical copy of any medical document has long been an exercise in frustration.
What are the new guidelines?
The new guidelines, outlined by the Department of Health & Human Services, require healthcare providers to deliver medical records within 30 days of receiving a request. Providers can no longer require a reason for the request, and cannot prevent access out of concern that a patient will be upset by the information contained.
The new guidelines require that HIPAA covered entities with access to protected health information (PHI) provide access to that information upon request. The PHI includes “designated record sets” maintained by the healthcare provider. Designated record sets, whether physical or digital, include:
- Medical records and billing records about individuals maintained by or for a covered health care provider;
- Enrollment, payment, claims adjudication, and case or medical management record systems maintained by or for a health plan; or
- Other records that are used, in whole or in part, by or for the covered entity to make decisions about individuals. This last category includes records that are used to make decisions about any individuals, whether or not the records have been used to make a decision about the particular individual requesting access
The action comes on the heels of a large number of complaints from consumers trying to access their medical records. The New York Times reported on the case of Christopher Moore, whose 4-year-old son Oliver suffers from a rare genetic disorder. The Moore family had tremendous difficulty accessing his son’s records, which ran to thousands of pages.
Mr. Moore said, “Some doctors seem to believe that medical records are intended only for doctor-to-doctor communication, and that patients would not understand those records. We want the records so we have control over them- so we can provide them to any doctor who sees our son.”
In addition to the requirements for providing records, the guidelines prevent providers from withholding medical records because of an outstanding balance or charging patients for the cost of searching and retrieving data.
In the spirit of facilitating collaboration between doctors and patients, timely access to medical records couldn’t come at a better time. Talking to your doctor about your medical history is easier when the information is at your fingertips, and having a complete record can mean the difference between life and death.
The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm supports all efforts to help patients get the information they need. For more information, contact the skilled Nashville personal injury attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law for a free consultation. We have additional offices in Gallatin and Knoxville, so we are always close by when you need us.