Providing patients access to their health information is indeed always a challenge. I thought I was well versed on this subject matter as a clinical social worker and therapist. However, after reading this article, I know it is one I will share with many. It has giving me more fresh information to add to my tool box of knowledge and to make me a better informed clinician and consumer of health care.
The Obama administration is tearing down barriers that make it difficult for patients to get access to their own medical records, telling doctors and hospitals that in most cases they must provide copies of these records within 30 days of receiving a request.
In new guidelines, issued this month, the administration says doctors and hospitals cannot require patients to state a reason for requesting their records, and cannot deny access out of a general concern that patients might be upset by the information.
When patients can see their medical records, the administration said, it is easier for them to participate in their health care. They can, for example, review what they were told by their doctors and, perhaps, consider other options for care.
Mr. Moore said insurers had spent $800,000 on care for his son, generating several thousand pages of medical records.
Under the new guidelines, a health care provider cannot require patients to pick up their records in person if they ask that the records be sent by mail or email. A health care provider cannot deny a request for access to health information because a patient has failed to pay medical bills. A doctor or a hospital may charge a fee to cover the cost of copying, but cannot charge for the cost of searching for data and retrieving it.
Doctors and hospitals are supposed to provide consumers with access to personal health information within 30 days and, in some cases, can extend the deadline by 30 days. But, the administration said, most requests should be fulfilled in fewer than 30 days.
But Deven McGraw, a deputy director of the Office for Civil Rights, said complaints about access to medical records were one of the top five issues investigated by her agency.
She said she wanted copies so new doctors could see the history of her daughter’s illness and would not have to repeat medical tests and imaging procedures.
For patients with chronic illnesses, the fees charged by doctors and hospitals for providing medical records can add up. “Why should I have to pay 25 cents to 50 cents a page for what really belongs to me in the first place?” Ms. O’Boyle asked.
“It may be contrary to the financial interests of health care providers to give patients broad access to their medical records,” Ms. Pritts said. “Once patients have that information, they can share it with competing health care providers.”
Health care providers may also deny requests if the disclosure of personal health information is “reasonably likely to endanger the life or physical safety” of a patient or another person. Thus, certain information might be denied to a suicidal patient.