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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog
Over the past 19 years since my first son was born, we have had a number of doctors care for us. Dr. G, our first pediatrician, was reassuring and supportive even when I was 2 hours late for the first baby check up.
When Dr. G accepted a partnership opportunity 80 miles away, we moved to Dr. H who gave my children friendly, practical care until it was our turn to move away.
Dr. H gave us a referral to Dr. B, a distinguished, elderly man trained in Europe. I really appreciated Dr. B’s concern and care when it came to treating my son’s asthma.
Unfortunately, our insurance carrier changed and I was forced to find a different doctor who was accepted by the plan. That’s how Dr. F entered our lives.
Every time we made a change, I dutifully requested that my sons’ medical records be sent to the new doctor. Dr. F inherited two files that were over 2 inches thick. The last time I saw a complete file was during an office visit for my youngest son two years ago.
Reason Number 1 – Medical Records Get Lost or Destroyed
Recently, it was time to changed doctors again. I requested copies from Dr. F’s staff and paid $50 for them photocopy the entire files.
What I got was only 10 pages for each son!
The doctors’ staff insists that I got everything they had.
So, what happened to all of those old records?
I can only suppose that someone was cleaning up the doctors files and moved ours to some unlabeled box in a storage facility. Or, perhaps they shredded them (California has enormous penalties for failing to destroy medical records properly).
HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, requires information it defines as “protected health information” to be maintained by the physician for at least 6 years from the date of its creation or the date it was last in effect. The earliest date in the records I received was 1997. So Dr. F’s staff had actually kept records going back more than 10 years.
Isn’t that good enough?
Reason Number 2 – Memory Fails & Doctors’ Notes are Impossible to Read
My oldest son recently came down with a sinus infection at college. He needed to tell Health Services if he had any reactions to medication. I recalled he had some issue with one antibiotic a long time ago. But which one was it?
I couldn’t remember the name so I searched the records I received. Dr. F’s scribbles were impossible to read. How I wish I had kept a set of records myself. The benefit claim forms that the insurance company sends don’t have any of these kinds of details.
So my son had to take the medication he was prescribed and hope for the best.
We lucked out. Number one son is recuperating nicely. But, there could have been a problem. All I had to do was make a legible note in a binder and put it in a safe place. But I didn’t because I thought I would remember.
My father tried to capture his key medical issues on pieces of note paper. I found a few of these notes in his tax paperwork for 2005. But, Dad didn’t have these papers with him the times he was hospitalized in the past two years.
My father wasn’t always able to tell the hospital doctors his medical history. It is clear from the records I have that they were in the dark about it. He ended up having multiple tests and x-rays over and over again because of it.
Reason Number 3 – Doctors Don’t Always Communicate With Each Other
In my post, Google Doesn’t Belong in the Health Records Business, I mentioned that my Dad’s family doctor did not always get records after my Dad’s hospitalizations because she was not affiliated with that hospital.
The hospital would assign a doctor to my father. Dad would protest that he had a doctor. They would explain that she couldn’t attend him that their hospital. My father would be angry and frustrated. The hospital staff would just call him difficult.
Eventually, I convinced my father to switch doctors so that he would have a family practitioner close to where he lived. With the help of the nurse at the retirement community, I arranged for my father to consult with two of the doctors who made visits to the community. He wasn’t sure which doctor he wanted as his primary care physician so we arranged for him to meet both doctors and then decide.
I requested my father’s medical records from his original doctor but her staff did not want to release them. The office manager said she would only release his medical records to another doctor. (Note: Each individual has a right to his/her own medical records.) They said they were afraid he would lose them and it would be too much work to copy them again.
Frustrated but unable to do much by long distance, I suggested to my father than I would give his old doctor one of the names of the new doctors, have the file sent, and then he could choose from the two new doctors. The nurse at the retirement community promised to get the file to the right doctor when it arrived.
Dad had a “meet and greet” with one of the doctors. Still no medical record for the new doctor to review. The other doctor had an emergency that day and canceled office visits.
Meanwhile, I continued to badger the office manager to release my father’s records.
Dad’s records eventually arrived, but not before he was hospitalized again. More tests, more x-rays.
You Need to Protect Yourself and Your Family
My family has had its share of doctors’ visits since the time my children were born. Most of those have been routine checkups. Never in all that time has any medical professional ever suggested I keep a binder to keep track of things.
My latest experiences tell me that I really need to get a binder together for my family. After doing some research, I settled on Jakoter Health Organizers.
The Jakoter Health Organizer includes a sturdy binder, 75 separate pages to record important information, pocket pages to hold instructions, notes and charts, even business card holder pages to keep all of your doctors’ business cards handy.
Are you carrying around stacks of doctors’ business cards in your purse just in case you will need them? I was. The business card pages in this kit are a way to lighten your load and still be prepared.
This organizer was created by an enterprising mom, Laura Heuer, who needed a way to deal with the overload of details about her son who had severe reactions to antibiotics given for a strep throat. Her son eventually got better. Out of her struggle to stay organized and on top of issues, the Jakoter Health Organizer was born.
Please check it out. Having organized health records will make it easier to communicate with your doctors, prevent unnecessary procedures and help your doctor make better diagnoses.
Today is a great day to get started.© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post either whole or in part. Please use the comments to request permission.