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Access to Medical Records

Access to Medical Records
08 October 2015

A copy of electronic medical record is of great use for patients in the course of their treatment, but physicians and hospitals are reluctant to provide it free of cost. Taxpayers have already paid partly for hospitals to maintain electronic health record systems to reduce the cost of creating copies. However, hospitals continue to charge exorbitant fees if patients need access to their medical records. Though the collection of these charges is against HIPAA regulations, medical practices are taking advantage of patient ignorance of such regulations and use patient privacy as a reason to withhold patient records.

The  lawsuit against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and George Washington University Hospital is seeking class-action for taking hundreds to thousands of dollars for a copy of medical records. Irrespective of the result, patients will benefit from the lawsuit as it would create awareness about the right to obtain a copy of their medical records. Medical practices would thus try to avoid negative publicity and legal costs for such lawsuits and will ensure their patients can access their medical records. These lawsuits are also set to achieve the objectives which the second stage of the MU (meaningful use) program failed to achieve.

Online discussion / review platforms such as Yelp can push hospitals and physicians to provide patients with their EMR. If online platforms opine that access to electronic medical record is a criterion to evaluate a medical practice, they will be encouraged to give patients access to medical records so that the medical practice can receive better ratings.

Medicare should include patient access to EMR as a feature in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey. Since the survey scores are important, hospitals will ensure there are stone fireplaces, health spas and professional chefs to gain patient satisfaction. If the Medicare survey asks patients questions about their copy of medicals records, hospitals will ensure that all patients can access their EMR.