Why You Should Have a Copy of Your Medical Records
As home care professionals, we know better than anyone that the older people get, the more important it is that they pay close attention to their health and well-being. One piece of advice we regularly share with our clients is how useful a personal copy of one’s medical history can be.
A person’s medical history is a valuable tool when diagnosing an injury or illness and also helps in determining treatment. Each doctor and medical professional you go to keeps their own set of records for your medical history. While most people rely on their doctors and medical professionals to maintain these records, this is not always the wisest thing to do.
One of the biggest risks to doctor-held medical records is limits on how long those records are kept. Some medical offices have a policy of destroying or expunging patient records after a given length of time, especially in cases where those records no longer appear active. Because of this, if you switch doctors, you could lose access after 5, 10, or 20 years to records of medications or treatments you received – valuable information that sometimes isn’t easily remembered.
You also run the risk of having records accidentally destroyed, such as in the case of fire or flood. There is also the chance that your records could be misfiled or lost. Furthermore, if your doctor sells, moves, or closes his/her practice, there is no way of knowing whether your files will be kept, or if you will have access to them. Without a second copy of your medical records housed elsewhere, there is little you can do to protect your records in case of any of these events.
The best way to reduce the risk that your records will be destroyed or lost is to keep a copy in your care, either at home or in a safe deposit box. This way, should you or a doctor ever need access to your medical records, you have them on hand. (It is important to note, however, that important and confidential information is contained in your records. If you are housing them in your home, take care to ensure they are safe from prying eyes or theft.)
If you wish to receive a copy of your medical records, you will need to file a request with your doctor. Due to changes that came with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), your doctor is required to issue these copies to you – and only you – at your request. For a full explanation of how to acquire your records, we suggest reading this guide by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
This guide is also helpful if you are looking to help an elderly parent or relative compile their own medical records. Due to privacy laws included in HIPAA, your parent or relative will need to file the requests for their records on their own, so having the right information to help guide them in this process can be especially valuable.
While it should be up to your loved one whether or not these records are then shared with anyone else, (as well as to what extent they are shared) this information can be invaluable when planning in home care. By providing a better, fuller, and more accurate picture of your loved one’s physical and mental condition, doctor-provided medical information helps care providers develop suitable and comprehensive home care plans.