Did you know that it isn’t just your physician who has access to your medical records, that you have a right to view them too? If you have been missing out on this major healthcare information, read along to know what you should be doing.
What Information do These Reports have?
Other than the regular information about an individual’s name, address, and date of birth, your medical record bears the following:
- A unique patient ID allocated to you by the hospital or your private doctor with the help of which records can be accessed. For instance, in the UK, it is a 10 digit NHS number given to all individuals who have signed up for a GP practice.
- Recent doctor appointments
- All known allergies
- Prescribed medications, say, for diabetes or high blood pressure
- Long term ailments or any major disease suffered from in the past
- All diagnostic test results like blood tests, genetic tests, X-rays, biopsies, mammograms, etc.
How to Access Your Own Medical Records?
As a patient, you should be aware of your rights to access your medical records. While data protection laws mandate confidentiality of your health records, your doctor or medical institution may furnish the information under certain circumstances. Privacy laws in countries have been specifically adjusted to incorporate this necessity. For instance, in the US, the federal law HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) sanctions every individual to view his medical records.
In India, in 1996, a ruling by the Bombay High Court now allows the patient or an authorized institute to access medical records after payment of an appropriate fee. You may review the records, obtain copies or a summary of the care and even file for amendments to them.
Access Medical Records Online
Several hospitals permit you to view your test results, record summaries, medications, follow-up instructions, and other information on their website through a patient portal. In order to acquire medical records online, you will first have to register yourself for your healthcare’s online GP services. You can have more than one portal, one for each of the places from where you avail healthcare services such as your doctor, insurance provider, pharmacy, etc.
The Process involved and Time taken
All well-established hospitals and clinics have a health information management department where you need to contact for accessing your records. In case it doesn’t have one, you may speak to someone in the administration who is in charge of managing patient records.
You will need to fill out a patient access request form. While it may be available online, for Summary Care Records, the process has to be conducted offline. Apart from providing basic personal details in this authorization person, you will be required to mention the purpose of your request as well as select the records you need. Also, since you are requesting private information, showing a valid government-issued ID proof is obligatory.
Following a statement from the Indian Medical Council in 2002, documents are to be produced by the health institute within 72 hours of the request made by the patient or concerned authority.
Who else can Access Your Records?
Other than you yourself, your medical reports can also be accessed by:
- A personal representative who has been legally authorized or has your written consent to retrieve your medical information on your behalf
- A parent or guardian of a patient below the age of 16 years
- In case of a court order of discovery, the records, if considered relevant to the investigation, have to be submitted by the hospital to a court representative
Almost all records can be obtained debarring a few such as your provider’s own psychotherapy notes, the ones that may endanger your life and safety, etc. records can also be withheld if it infringes on the privacy of an involved third party who was otherwise promised confidentiality.
Knowing your health history isn’t just a smart habit as a patient. Be it for general awareness, for correcting minor or major errors, or even if need be, for filing a lawsuit, accessing and understanding your medical records is equally imperative as consulting a doctor for any treatment in the first place. So make sure you exercise your right properly.