Tag Archives: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Do not leave your doctor’s office until… (part 2)

Do not leave your doctor’s office until… (part 2)

 

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.

Information on The Privacy Act and The Freedom of Information Act, can be found on the following website, http://www.ssa.gov/privacyact.htm.

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.

 

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Do not leave your Doctor’s office until… (part 1)

Do not leave your Doctor’s office until… (part 1)

 

Please, never leave your doctor’s office until you have the secretary copy and give you your medical report or reports.Have you ever had to request your medical records from your doctor or hospital and got the “run around”? I am writing this article to inform you of your rights as an informed patient, to help you become organized, and because of my frustration. Our clinic, New Hope Unlimited, always ask prospective patients for their past medical records. We feel this is good medical practices. It not only gives the doctors an idea of what has happened to the patient in the past, but helps the patient in more ways than one. Many times we have found wrong information in the records that belonged to another patient with a total different diagnosis. Many times we have found there were symptoms diagnosed that was never discussed with the patient or the family. On the other hand, we have found great news that was never told to the patient that the patient needed to hear.

We are seeing an increasing issue where institutions are refusing to give records or charging an enormous fee for them. For, instance, I remember a patient asked for their records and was charged $35.00 for 8 pages of records. Its true that it is legal that they can charge you for the copy and the time for the employee to go find your records and copy them. But, in my opinion, thats highway robbery when you can get someone like Kinkos to make a copy for 10 cents a page.

We have experienced an incidence where someone still owed money for their surgery and they were refused their medical records until the bill was paid. Wrong! We got busy and let that office know that was against the law.

Some offices will say they sent the records and the records were never received. Sometimes the secretary may get busy and just forget to send them out. This of course upsets the patient, and the patient starts wondering who is telling the truth. Other offices do not want to give the records out unless the patient tells them where they are going and why. No doctor wants to loose patients. We tell our patients that you never have to give them that information unless you want to and “never burn the bridges”. Always be kind and be informed of your rights.

It seems we are having to go to battle more and more for our patients than ever before. Your medical records belong to you. In part 2, I will discuss the HIPPA laws and other laws you need to know about.

So much for the negative. What is the solution and what can we do about it? First thing, when you go into your doctor’s office, sign in and kindly tell the secretary “I will want a copy of my report when I leave today.” Tell them, “ I am keeping my own medical file up to date.” It is always easier to get the reports while you are there because your chart is out, the office staff does not feel threatened that you are leaving them or suing them, and most of the time they will not charge you. So much easier than having to go back and request the records.

We tell our patients to become active in your health care. One of the ways to do that is to simply keep track of your own records. There are many ways to organize your records once you get them. The easiest way is simply to put them in a file folder in a safe place. Another way is to buy a three ring notebook binder. This is the way I would suggest doing it.

With a three ring notebook binder, you can organize your records in several ways. One way is to divide your records into the years of treatment. For example, you may label the sections 2011, 2012 and so on. Your records would go in the year you were treated.

Another way to use the notebook, is to organize it by the doctors you see. You would divide the sections into Dr One Name, Dr Two Name, Dr Three Name, and so forth.

The way I feel is the best way is to divide the notebook into “Titles”. Your titles should include Pathology, Radiology (x-rays), Blood Work, Surgery, Office Visits, Correspondents, Insurance Forms, Appointment Dates, and you can even put a section in for Medical Bills.

By keeping your own set of records each time you go to the doctor, it keeps stress down,cost down, and makes you a more empowered patient.