Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm spoiled

I admit I'm spoiled. I get all my medical treatment in the same place and all my medical records are there. (I would be in big trouble if something happened to them!) However, if I went to another place for treatment, I would have to get my medical records and drag them along. I know lots of people who do this - take medical records from place to place. I don't think I could handle the responsibility

I really don't have my medical records. I do have lots of test results thoughtfully assembled in little piles or folders but not really anywhere consistently. If I need to find anything, I have to dig around. Recently I unearthed a file with some test results from the 1990's. But I can't find the reports from around any of my surgeries - how helpful is that.

So recently there was an article on CNN (see I told you I would get back to medical stuff instead of whining soon) about patients and family members who have difficulty getting the data from one medical facility. First of all, this is the patient's data so its yours so you should manage it. I know I am spoiled and don't have to worry about this one so I am biased. But I think if you know you are going to need your medical information to take to another doctor, make sure you get it ahead of time. And be slightly more organized than I am to make sure you can find it.

But I completely understand when there is an emergency, you can't plan ahead. I would be in the same boat if I had to go for medical emergency treatment anywhere. I would have to get the records to the other hospital quickly. This would be a real problem. I do kind of circumvent this by keeping a list of medical issues and treatment that I can easily produce if needed. But if I was hospitalized and someone else had to locate it on my computer, that's another story.

HIPPA has complicated things a bit. Hospitals are required to keep the information private. Last summer I wanted a copy of a test result and could get it by going to medical records and having them print it out at no charge. But if I wanted multiple pages, I would have had to pay and it would have taken time which wouldn't be available if it was a true emergency.

Hospitals are large institutions with policies and procedures for patient protection built into place. So I had to learn to work within these. I found out a lot just by going to the Medical Records Department and asking questions.

Electronic medical records are helpful and are available where I am treated now, but they only go back so far. When I met with an endocrinologist recently, she asked about my original pathology report from 1981. As I actually saw it in December 2007, I could tell her a little about it. She was glad to hear it had surfaced that recently but knew it would take a bit to get hold of it again.

I find it crazy that the people in the article have to go through so many hoops to get the information. The system clearly needs to change so that you have access to your patient data when its needed, and not when its too late. In the meantime, I am spoiled and will continue to get all my treatment in one place.

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