Do You Have Access to Your Medical Records?

New Study Shows Accessing Your Medical Records May Be More Challenging Than You Think.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about privacy in the Digital Age, but how does this conversation apply to healthcare? Everyone has a medical record, but many people may not understand how this information is being used and whether they have access to it. While federal law mandates that everyone has a right to obtain a copy of their medical records, actually securing this information can be more difficult than many of us realize.

Why Obtain a Copy of Your Medical Records?

A patient may want to obtain a copy of their medical records if they plan on seeing a new doctor or getting a second opinion. Others may want to double check their records to get a better sense of their current health status and medical history. Some individuals may be managing this information for another party, such as an elderly loved one.

Patients that regularly review their medical records tend to have a better understanding of their health status. Patients are more likely to follow treatment recommendations, remember important information given during appointments, and feel more engaged and empowered when it comes to managing their health.

New Study Shows 83% of Leading U.S. Hospitals Restrict Access to This Information

A new study conducted by researchers at Yale University discovered that a whopping 83% of the leading hospitals in the country have barriers in place that restrict their patients’ access to their medical records. Instead of posing as an academic institution, the researchers called the hospitals asking for patient health records under the guise of being a concerned loved one. They asked whether they could access the records, how long it would take, and in what format this information would be delivered. And, in many cases, the results were surprising.

The results reveal a great deal of confusion surrounding a patient’s access to health records. Many people were told one thing on the phone, while the information on their forms told a different story. Here are just some of the findings from the report:

  • Only 53% of hospitals indicated patients could access their complete records.
  • 43% of hospital forms didn’t disclose the cost of obtaining these records, which is required by law.
  • 59% of hospitals cited a higher fee for obtaining a copy of these records compared to the government’s recommended fee.

Why Accessing These Records Can Be So Difficult?

Every healthcare facility is different, but the study shows that many facilities lack a basic understanding of a patient’s right to access their medical records. When researchers called these hospitals, the person answering the phone may not have known exactly what was allowed and what wasn’t when it comes to releasing these records, leading to the spread of misleading or contradictory information. Many smaller medical facilities, including physicians in private practice, don’t have a medical records department, making it difficult for patients to obtain these records.

In other cases, the forms used to request these records can be confusing or misleading. There is no standardized form for requesting these records, which means the experience will vary from patient to patient. Some facilities may request certain sensitive information before releasing these records, which only adds to the confusion and frustration of patients.

However, the government is working to address these issues. Their new MyHealthEData Initiative is designed to make it easier to request and obtain these records. While the details of the program are still under wraps, only time will tell if this will increase the public’s access to medical records.

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