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You and Your Medical Records

I often have injured clients coming to me for assistance in resolving their claims who report that their medical providers refused to give them copies of their own medical records or put so many barriers between them and their records that they gave up. Doctors or institutions that do this are in violation of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In a significant number of the cases I have been involved in over the last 35 years, I find numerous errors by the doctors and their record keeping, especially where it relates to history of a particular injury. These careless errors can be devastating for a case. What are doctors afraid of? They do not like to be corrected nor do they want to take the time to respond to inquiries about their medical records. They also want the freedom to not be as careful as they should be. Whenever I have a medical examination or test I insist upon and receive the results and review them carefully. I keep copies of key medical records in a file. Everyone should do this. Last summer a huge study began called “open notes.” It involves about 25,000 patients from 3 hospitals around the country. I am proud to say that Harborview Medical Center and some of its physicians are participating in this study. What this study does is to email each patient an access code for their medical records following a medical exam or test. It also sends them an email to review their records two weeks prior to a follow-up examination. If you have been a patient at Harborview since this last summer and have not received this service, then you should know that your doctor has refused to participate. Since Harborview and the entire University of Washington medical system have moved to electronic records this should improve greatly in the effort to eliminate medical mistakes and to involve patients in their own care.

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