When asked what documents are important to them, you likely think about your birth certificate, your passport or drivers’ license. Chances are you don’t think about your medical records. But you should.
Each time you visit a doctor, physician, medical specialist or other healthcare provider, a record is kept of the care you received. Your medical records are extremely important as they provide a history about you: procedures and treatments received, tests run, medications prescribed, known allergies, etc. Hospitals and healthcare providers compile their own records of your treatment and maintain them for safekeeping, but it is in your best interest to retain a copy for yourself.
Why Keep Your Own Copy of Your Medical Records?
It is a good idea to keep a copy of your own records because:
- It is rare you will go to the same doctor or hospital your entire life, so no treating healthcare provider will have all of your records. By keeping your own copy, you will have the entire picture of your medical history.
- Doctors, nurses, hospitals and others that were responsible for your treatment might be reluctant to release records to you if they are being sued or if you have unpaid medical bills. By getting these records in advance, you may be able to help prove if you received negligent care.
You Have a Right to Your Records
Under HIPAA (the Health Information Portability Accountability Act), you have the right to access information about the treatment that you received.
Not only do hospitals have to provide you with a copy of your records, but physicians have a legal and ethical responsibility to give you their notes. American Medical Association (AMA) Opinion 7.02 addresses the issue of patient medical records, stating, “on request of the patient, a physician should provide a copy or a summary of the record to the patient or to another physician, an attorney, or other person designated by the patient.” This applies even if you have outstanding bills.
How to Obtain Your Records
In Ohio, if you or your representative, such as an attorney, provides a written request to a healthcare provider, the provider must either give you a copy of the records, or allow you or your representative to examine the actual records.
If you wish to obtain your medical records, it is important to know how to make your request. You want to receive this information as soon as possible, as it is crucial to document your medical history and to help you establish a claim should a medical malpractice issue arise. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you request the information, and will know how to use your medical records to prove your case.