Why Get Your Data
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) was made law in the United States on August 21, 1996. Before this date, there was no federal right for patients to be given access to their medical records; state laws governed access to this critical information and varied widely, with “good cause” to view these records required to be shown in some states and lawsuits required in others to establish access on a patient-by-patient basis. Under HIPAA, health care providers are required to provide copies of medical records (with some exceptions) [internal link to our document “Your Right to Request…’] if they are properly requested.
While there’s been a great deal of progress in computerizing medical records and accessing them is your legal right, problems in retrieving them are common. If there are problems, it can be difficult to know what’s holding up your request for information, whether a lost request, healthcare provider era, or just a backlog of paperwork at our doctor’s office. If you’re doing it yourself, perseverance is key; if you’re having a professional service help you, make sure they’re experienced and responsive.
YOU CAN BUILD A COMPREHENSIVE PERSONALIZED MEDICAL RECORD
By coordinating and collecting the medical records from all of your healthcare providers, you can build a comprehensive view of your health care history. This can be useful in identifying potentially conflicting medical treatments. You can also add your own information to these records, such as your daily weight over time, symptoms associated with long term treatment for chronic conditions, and any data from connected personal devices. This can prove useful in identifying health issues that may not be easily identifiable purely from an office visit.
HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS ARE ONLY REQUIRED TO STORE YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS FOR A LIMITED TIME
While each doctor who has provided you with medical care is required to keep accurate records, the length of time they are required to hold these records varies considerably from state to state, but in In general record keeping requirements extend for 10 years or less after your last visit. Retrieving your medical records ensures that you will have a complete history of your medical care.
Getting Your Medical Records Can Take Time
Health Care Providers are required to provide you with your medical records, but have 30 days in which to respond to a properly made request, and need only respond to requests during regular business hours. Requesting and storing your medical records now will allow easy access to them when needed, even if at night, over the weekend, or even on a holiday.
BENEFITS OF GETTING YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS
There are substantial benefits to getting your medical records from all of your health care providers. While adult patients have automatic rights to access their own medical records, individuals can also ask that their records be delivered to another person. This is extremely helpful for those who help coordinate care for relatives.
CENTRALIZING HEALTH RECORDS AND IMPROVING HEALTHCARE
Health care providers are required to keep medical records relating only to their interaction with you as a patient. However, if you’ve had more than one physician during your life, currently see more than one specialist, or receive treatment at different hospitals, none of those healthcare providers are responsible for providing a comprehensive medical record for you: this is the patient’s responsibility.
By having all of your medical records and maintaining a centralized, comprehensive list of allergies, medications, and/or diagnoses:
You’ll facilitate keeping healthcare providers informed when you visit a new doctor for the first time or switch physicians.
You can also share prior medical test and laboratory results which will provide a comprehensive timeline of all events when managing your health or seeking a second opinion; while obviously beneficial if you’re managing a chronic condition such as diabetes, this can also prove useful by documenting long-term changes relevant for certain cancer screenings or heart conditions. In a study of senior cardiac patients, for instance, researchers found that those who kept a personal health record had better health outcomes.
As we become more mobile as a society, having all your medical records can improve continuity of care if you move to a new area.
FINDING MORE INFORMATION OR SUPPORT FOR MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Having full copies of your medical records with accurate information makes it easier to connect with other patients or conduct research online so you have a better understanding of any health concerns.
MANAGING YOUR HEALTHCARE COSTS
Without knowing your medical history, a new doctor may repeat tests that you have already taken; in addition to being unpleasant and often adding unnecessary delays in providing you appropriate medical care, you can put yourself at risk of denied insurance claims for “duplicate services.”
Given the increasing rise in deductible limits for employer-sponsored health insurance plans and the increasing popularity of lower-cost, high-deductible health plans, using your medical records to monitor potentially expensive services takes on extra urgency.
Lastly, if you have an auto accident, for example, and file a claim, you may need to prove that the accident caused new injuries and that any medical care provided is not due to preexisting medical conditions. While rare, if you ever need to make a medical malpractice claim, your medical records will be essential in making your case.
MAKE SURE YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS ARE ACCURATE
Confirm your medical records are up-to-date and accurate. If you think any information is incorrect, you should request that your doctor amend or update your medical records immediately; the healthcare provider must respond to your request. If the healthcare provider does not agree to your request, you have the right to submit a statement of disagreement that the provider must add to your record.
Reviewing your medical records makes it easier to have productive conversations with your health care providers, including planning preventive medical visits.
MAKE SURE YOUR ICE CARD IS ACCURATE
“In Case of Emergency,” or ICE, cards should be in your wallet and should list your name, any pre-existing conditions, medications, devices, blood type, and primary care physician contact information. First, it’s important to review your medical records to make sure any information you put on an ICE car is accurate and complete, since wrong or missing data could cause serious medical problems. In an emergency, having your medical records at the ready in an accessible location can also be helpful for health care providers.