Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I used to believe that the patient was his own best advocate until I was at my last clinic. Unfortunately many health care professionals do not believe that an informed patient with questions about his own care is any more than a headache or a nuisance.

Obviously not always true, but I'm learning that there's much more to it than simply advocating for yourself. You have to be careful not to injure egos or offend doctors because you just might end up worse off (I sure did!)

Unfortunately not everyone has the means or ability to change providers when they find themselves stuck with a doctor who sees a patient who questions his decisions as a problem. Once you've been labeled a problem patient it is very difficult (impossible?) to be seen any differently.

I do advocate getting a copy of your records because that's the only way to know what's in them. My old records have some very unflattering comments about me. Knowing this , I was able to make the decision not to transfer my records to my new clinic and hand-select the parts that were relevant (test result sheets) while leaving out the pages that included rude commentary.

By law, we are all entitled to access our medical records and obtain a copy of them (hospital records too.) I think particularly in regards to fertility this can be helpful to the patient who usually is a bigger part of the decision-making process.


taken from privacy rights clearinghouse re: hipaa/medical records

How do I get access to my own medical records?

HIPAA requires health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouse to allow you access to your medical records. Notices you receive from providers and plans must include information about how you can obtain copies of your medical records.

In addition to HIPAA, about half the states have laws that allow patients or their designated representatives to access medical records. Laws usually allow health care facilities to charge a "reasonable" fee for copying records.

If you receive care in a federal medical facility, you have a right to obtain your records under the federal Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC sec. 552a, www.usdoj.gov/foia/privstat.htm)

We advise that you make your request in writing. For a sample letter, see www.privacyrights.org/Letters/medical2.htm. If you are denied access, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Civil Rights. (Contact information is provided at the end of this guide). Your state's medical privacy law might also enable you to file a complaint with state regulators.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I do believe that patients have the potential to be their own strongest advocate, but only when they equip themselves with the tools to be that advocate. There are certainly times when being your own advocate is not enough. But any good advocate's job includes deciding when the job is beyond their scope.

The thing about getting a copy of your medical records is that I know not all doctor's offices will provide all pages of your record to you, the patient. I've always found that frustrating.

I had a lot of fights with various doctors (none of them fertility docs, thank heavens) about getting copies of my medical records. Plenty of them had no intention of releasing records directly to me; they were only willing to release them to another doctor. I find this absurd, not to mention questionably legal.