When you need to get a copy of your medical records to get from one doctor to another, don’t you just cringe thinking about the hassle? It’s almost easier to get your cable installed, to place a call to the water department, or to do your own taxes. It’s bad. I know.
Plus, when you finally arrive at the new doctor’s office, you get some version of the blame game for the records not being there. “Oh, they never sent those” or “Oh, you need to fill out this 15-page affadavit and provide a notarized signature and DNA sample if you want those released.” Come on! What is going on here?? Why does it take so long to get medical records from other hospitals or doctors?
In my opinion, there are several reasons:
- Poor IT structure
- What exactly are the medical records you need?
- HIPAA Rules, Rules, and More Rules
- HIPAA Loopholes
Poor IT structure
First, healthcare has a very poor IT structure. Despite advances at banks, businesses and on Facebook, the U.S. health care industry has very clunky, not very friendly software. Our industry is at about 1999 in terms of tech savvy maturity. And, of course, nobody can agree on a consistent delivery platform. In fact, many doctors are resisting computerized records at all – they still hand write everything. So, even if your medical records are small, it’s generally torture to get them delivered in any way, shape, or form. And it certainly won’t be efficient.
What exactly are the medical records you need?
Medical records are actually quite complex, because you’re talking about medical notes, the scribble from your doctor, your medication records from the pharmacy, blood tests, other test results, call logs, and pictures or images from your x-rays and CT scans. So, to get all of that in your hands in a neat little package requires coordination from several sources. In general, complex records, like your CT scans, will take longer to get, and may need to be burned onto a CD and given to you.
HIPAA Rules, Rules and More Rules
HIPAA is the huge government Act that was passed in 1996. On the surface, it seems simple. Keep medical records private. But like any government endeavor, it quickly grew into a nine-headed, obese, slow-moving, fire-breathing monster. The medical profession is left to worry about how to move information around without breaking the law.
As for simply e-mailing you the records, that’s a no go. Secure e-mail is actually not that common. If you ever ask your bank a question, you’ll notice that you’ll be able to read their answer on the bank website, after you log-in. This is secure, but it costs money and expertise to set up. Healthcare, for whatever reason, simply doesn’t have the wherewithal and money to do this.
There are significant Federal penalties for breaches of your privacy, so most health care facilities can’t or won’t give you your medical records by e-mail. (Again, see above mention of a 15-page affidavit, notarized signature and DNA sample to get a feel for today’s HIPAA environment).
Don’t blame me, but the U.S. Government has stated that I have 30 days to send your records to you, and an additional 30 days may be added as necessary to process your medical records. To me, that seems like an awfully long time (and I would never make you wait that long), but don’t blame me, blame the government! If you don’t believe, look at this PDF:
So, there you go. Getting your records moved around is a pain in your gluteus maximus. While you wait, try to do something more fun to distract yourself. Like renewing your driver’s license.