Medical Records and Your Rights
Knowing the details of your migraine treatment can be very important to successfully managing the disease. Lab results, medication history, and even doctor's notes are all relevant information, and patients have a right to this knowledge. Attempting to obtain it in a safe and secure manner can raise potential questions and difficulties, however. Do patients really have a right to their complete medical records? What if the doctor refuses to share information with other doctors?
Medical records contain an account of all treatment received from any sort of health professional. Lab results, prescribed medications, surgical history and any other evidence of procedures are included. Complete medical records include your medical history and answers to any questions you may have been asked in the doctor's office, including your pregnancy status and whether or not you smoke, drink, or engage in risky behaviors.
If you turn to your doctor for help ascertaining your disabled status, that information becomes part of your medical record as well. In other words, if your diagnosis constitutes that of disability, you can expect that information to live in your record.
National standards were created for the safety, sharing, and protection of medical record information via the HIPAA Privacy Rule of 1996. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Title I provides health insurance coverage when employees lose or change jobs. Title II established standards for electronic records transfer, but also set up rules for PHI (Protected Health Information). Under the law, protected health information consists of any information about a patient that relates to health status or finances. Patients or other covered entities can request updates to incorrect medical data, and confidentiality of medical data must be maintained during transfers.
When it comes to accessing medical records, remember that you are not the only one entitled to your records. A host of others are entitled to see your medical history, including potential employers, Medicare and other government departments, insurance companies, and the Medical Information Bureau. However, remember that under the ADA, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of disability. They cannot, for example, ask potential job applicants for specific information in their medical histories or prescreen employees by requiring physical examinations.
Thanks to HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), patient privacy laws became more standardized across the country. Patients have a right to access their medical records, and this access extends to individual health care providers and insurance companies. Oral requests are easy to ignore and impossible to track, so always make a formal request in writing.
Can marketers gain access to your medical information?
Sometimes, yes. If a person chooses to participate in certain types of public health screenings, for example, that information might be shared or sold. If privacy is a concern, read all printed warnings, waivers, and other documentation before signing on the dotted line.
In addition to the protections provided by the government, be proactive about protecting your privacy. Read waivers carefully and, if necessary, handwrite exceptions onto the form before signing it. If certain documents in your medical history might initiate conflict at work, for example, ask your doctor to sign a special waiver that removes your consent for sharing that document. Work with your physician and hospital legal department for specific questions and concerns.