Monday, November 02, 2009

Why don't patients ask for their medical records ?

We all know that our medical records contain important information about our health . Just like you own your body, you own these records as well, because they are about your body !

This is why I feel patients should routinely ask for doctors for a copy of their medical records. After all, bad things can happen to your records. Clinics can close down; doctors can die; you can move town; you may need your medical records in an emergency when the doctor is on a holiday ; and files can get lost. No one will take better care of your medical records than you will, which is why you must have a copy !

Keeping a copy will ensure that your records are safe; and that they are available when you need them. Equally importantly, going through them will help you get better medical care, because you are likely to become a better patient . As you study them and try to take the effort to decipher the jargon and make sense of what is happening to your body , you will become better informed , so that you doctor will find it easier to form an intelligent partnership with you. Keeping them will also help you get a second opinion; save money ( because you will not have to repeat tests in case you go to a new consultant); and also prevent errors ( which are surprisingly common !)

In the USA and the UK, your records are traditionally kept with the clinic. You should still insist on a copy - this is your legal right !

In India, most doctors are happy to give you a copy and this needs to be stored carefully.
A good clinic will always be happy to give you a copy - and a good doctor will discuss what your record contains, so you can make sense of it. If a clinic refuses to give you a copy of your records, you should smell a rat and ask for a copy in writing. It is illegal for them to refuse to give you a copy ( though they can charge you for this).

The good news is that EMRs ( Electronic medical records) become popular, it will become easier for patients to maintain their own PHR ( Personal health records), because it will be easy to import your data from the clinic's EMR into your PHR.

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