Medical Malpractice Lawyer Cleveland, OH
As a medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland, OH with over thirty years of experience, I have personally reviewed thousands and thousands of medical charts in the course of investigating claims of medical negligence, hospital negligence, chiropractor negligence, podiatrist negligence, pharmacy negligence, nursing home neglect and abuse, and nursing negligence. The process of ordering medical records used to be quite simple. However, recent changes in the law have added unnecessary complexity to the process.
Healthcare providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices, are required by both State and Federal law to maintain the medical records of their patients and provide access to them. The Federal requirements for maintaining medical records on behalf of patients are set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA rules require healthcare providers to maintain a copy of each patient’s medical chart and to make those records available to each patient within a reasonable time frame and at a reasonable cost.
The HIPAA law imposes a fee restriction on healthcare providers meant to make records affordable. Prior to January 2020, hospitals would provide a copy of their patient’s medical chart to the patient’s medical malpractice lawyer at the restricted fee cost. We would simply have our client sign a HIPAA-compliant authorization and use the signed authorization to request that the client’s medical records be sent to our offices on the patient’s behalf at the restricted fee cost. However, in January 2020, a federal court determined that the HIPAA fee restriction only applies to the patient, not the patient’s lawyer. Greedy hospitals and their contractors who processed medical records requests interpreted this rule as permitting them to charge exorbitant fees for medical records if a lawyer was involved in any part of the medical record request, including using the lawyer’s letterhead to request the medical record, having the medical record delivered to the lawyer’s office or having the lawyer pay for the cost of the medical record. Efforts are being made to change this law to a more reasonable practice where a lawyer can act on the patient’s behalf and be involved in the medical record request process without waiving the fee restriction.
In the meantime, our medical malpractice law firm relies on the client to obtain their own medical record. This process is relatively simple and cost-effective. The client should call the hospital’s medical record department for instructions on how to obtain a copy of their chart. Our client can either appear in person to obtain a copy of their record, or write a letter to the medical records department requesting a copy of their medical record. Most hospital systems have their own HIPAA-compliant authorization that must be used when requesting medical records. Hospitals typically produce records in an electronic format, by burning the chart onto a CD-ROM disk. We can assist in this process.
Additional information is required when requesting medical records for a wrongful death case. When medical records are requested on behalf of a deceased individual, supporting documentation is required to identify the requesting individual as a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Ohio law also provides that healthcare providers must make their patient’s records available to the patient or the patient’s personal representative upon written request. The healthcare provider must make the medical record available within a reasonable time, also subject to fee restrictions. See Rev. Code § 3701.741. The patient’s personal representative includes “a minor patient’s parent or other person acting as the parent, a court-appointed guardian, a person with a durable power of attorney for the healthcare of the patient, the executor or administrator of the patient’s estate, or the person responsible for the patient’s estate if it is not to be probated.” Ohio probate law also provides that an individual can file a request to be deemed the estate’s representative for the sole purpose of obtaining medical records.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Mishkind Kulwicki Law are available to assist you in obtaining copies of your medical records. Our process in reviewing potential medical malpractice claims is to obtain all relevant medical records and conduct an in-house review of those records. We typically create a timeline of events and a summary of potential issues. We conduct medical research to determine whether accepted standards of medical care were followed. In some instances, we are not able to reach a definitive conclusion on the merits of a claim based solely on our in-house review. In this event, we consult with medical experts who are qualified to answer our questions. We routinely consult with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to get to the bottom of cases. Once the merits of a claim are established, we obtain an affidavit of merit from a qualified expert. Ohio law requires an affidavit of merit be attached to a complaint when a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed.
If you have any questions about obtaining medical records or initiating an investigation into a potential medical malpractice case, do not hesitate to call. Our attorneys are available to assist you. We do not charge a fee for our representation unless we recover compensation on your behalf.