You never know when the day may come when you or a family member may need to venture out and try to retrieve medical records. Its not always as easy as it may sound.
In Part 1, I spoke about how important it is to get your medical records as you are leaving your doctor’s office instead of going through the hassle of having to go back and retrieve them.
Today I want to give you another reason why you should get your records as you go to your office visits. Let me explain how important it is that you get your records and do not try sending someone else after them. That can be a headache in itself but for a good reason. Sometimes health circumstances mean you have to send someone else. If that happens, always write a hand written note saying you are giving that person (name the person), permission to pick them up for you.
Most people are private people and do not want everyone knowing their personal business. Thank goodness our federal government has recognized that and tries to protect us from unwanted medical information getting into the wrong hands.
There are Federal laws and guidelines set into place to help protect us. Two laws I want to introduce to you is The Federal Privacy Act of 1974 and the Health Information Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA).
These laws, as I said, are enforced to protect you. No one is suppose to call a doctor’s office or health care facility and ask for information on you. Did you know that the facility is not even suppose to tell that person if you are there or not, or had ever been, or will be? This is to protect your rights. The only way they are allowed to do so is by your permission. No other reason. There have been many cases of law suits because unwanted information was given out on the phone.
The Federal Privacy Act of 1974 is a law which regulates the handling of health care information by federal agencies. This law also regulates the access to the records the government keeps. If you are a veteran or work for the federal government, this may be of interest to you.
It states “An individual is entitled to access to his or her records and to request correction of these records by stating the reasons for such actions with supporting justification showing how the record is untimely, incomplete, inaccurate or irrelevant. The Privacy Act prohibits disclosure of these records without written individual consent unless one of the twelve disclosure exceptions enumerated in the Act applies. These records are held in Privacy Act systems of records. A notice of any such system is published in the Federal Register. These notices identify the legal authority for collecting and storing the records, individuals about whom records will be collected, what kinds of information will be collected, and how the records will be used (See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/foia/bluebook/toc.htm).”
HIPPA was passed by congress in 1996 and signed by President Bill Clinton. It is administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is intended to protect our patient’s rights and medical records. HIPAA calls our medical records “protected health information.” Information on HIPAA can be found by going to the following website, http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/index.html.
Wikipedia gives a lot of good, easy to read ideas about what HIPAA is about.
It is nice to know that somethings we can be responsible for and feel like we have help in protecting our personal information. Remember, you never know what may come around the corner and if you may need your medical records. Why not go ahead and be one step ahead and have your own medical file. That way, no one else should even need to be asking about your medical records because you already have them filed away, up to date, and ready.