3 Reasons Why You Must Keep Your Own Health and Medical Records

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

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.

(Here’s the Health Record organizer I recommend.)

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?

Not always.

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.

Jakoter Health Organizer

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.

Click this link to see more information about the Jakoter Health Organizer.

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.
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Google Doesn’t Belong In The Health Records Business – Here’s A Better Idea

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

Sorry, Eric (Schmidt, CEO of Google).
Google doesn’t belong in the health records business.

For those of you who don’t follow Google’s business on a daily basis, here is a brief rundown of what has happened.

Last year, Microsoft announced a new service called Health Vault to help individuals manage health records online. This is not a revolutionary idea. There are already several smaller companies on the Internet offering individuals the convenience of storing health records online so that they are more available when they are needed. Several of the large players in the business of providing technology to doctors offices and medical clinics also have digital records initiatives.

But, no one company has been able to gain serious momentum in digital health records. It is a gargantuan task to coordinate doctors, labs, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and individuals AND meet all of the requirements of HIPAA for privacy. Microsoft has already collected an impressive number of partners to work with Health Vault.

Google Announcement Starts Tsunami

In Orlando, Florida last week, Google announced Google Health, a platform for individuals to manage medical records such as medical test results and prescriptions. The announcement set off a wave of protests from consumer privacy advocates. Eric Schmidt is trying to soothe the uproar by saying that Google won’t sell ads on Google Health.

Oh really?
Here’s how one analyst sees the situation:

“Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, firmly believes ads will happen. ‘Advertisers would pay absurd amounts of money to be seen when someone wants to, say, refill a subscription online,’ he says.’ This is more lucrative than commerce-related search.” For the complete story, click here to see Jefferson Graham’s article in USA Today.

Digital Records Could Save Lives

I’m not a Luddite. I work for a company that develops mobile technology.

And, I have had to fight ferociously with doctor’s office administrators to obtain my Dad’s medical records as well as my own and my children’s records. In one case, I had to pay $100 for a file of poor photocopies that I could barely read. Forget about scanning to digitize them.

My father was caught in the bind between doctor and hospital. His regular family doctor had all of his records but she wasn’t admitted to practice at the hospital closest to my father’s home. The hospital would “assign” him a doctor while he was there. But the records never made it back to the family doctor.

The cardiologist at the hospital might not have put my father on Plavix if the doctor knew my father had a history of gastrointestinal bleeding. At one point, the docs who did not talk to each other had my father on DOUBLE doses of 4 different medications. It only got corrected because he could feel that the medications were not working right. He went to the family doctor who reduced all the doses and got rid of the duplicate medications.

That was a close call! And, it is a safe bet that this happens to thousands of Americans everyday.

If you have experienced anything like this, you may think I am crazy to oppose help from the two tech companies that have the best chance of making digital records happen. Pam Dixon, executive director of the non-profit World Privacy Forum, said it best,”A publicly traded company is supposed to have shareholders (my emphasis) in mind first.” (As quoted in an Associated Press article by Travis Reed.)

The Push for Quarterly Profits

Wall Street, institutional and individual shareholders are illogically relentless in their push for quarterly profits from publicly traded companies. Every employee knows what ROSHE (Return on Shareholder Equity) its company is trying to achieve. The focus may be making customers happy so they buy more product or service but the goal is always ROSHE.

The bulk of Google’s revenue comes from selling ads. Microsoft sells software and services. These companies are locked in a battle to gain your attention for its products and partners’ products. Each is working to dominate the marketplace.

So, it is easy to envision a scenario in which our personal privacy gets compromised.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Microsoft has the platforms to connect little devices like a glucose monitor to your home computer but its web sites infrastructure is not as strong as Google’s. (Full disclosure– my company is a Microsoft Partner. I have many good things to say about Microsoft but not when it comes to its web sites.)

Google has the digital infrastructure to power web-based communications around our planet. If you use Google to search the Internet, you are tapping into an amazing, gigantic, distributed network that gives you search results after it has filtered out over 3 million malicious or problematic web sites in a small fraction of a second. But, even Google admits that its first version of a G-Phone is buggy beyond belief.

I admire both companies for what they have achieved and the vision they espouse. But both companies have the compelling need to make ROSHE. Right now Google has advertisers that are willing to pay $25, $50 or more when a person visits the advertiser’s web site. The possibilities for enormous revenue for delivering pharmaceutical ads, for example, to consumers are easy to imagine. Google has all of the technology from Double Click to track every purchase you make. It’s only a short step to your entire medical file.

Microsoft has slightly different, yet just has huge revenue possibilities. It’s making the Wall Street analysts giddy with thoughts of double digit quarterly profits.

The Third Alternative — A Consortium

It’s hard to get things done by committee. Compromises can result in gazelles that look more like camels. But sometimes a non-profit organization or a governmental entity is the only way to protect citizens from the fallout of the giant corporate gladiators.

From my vantage point, the only way to assure that digital health care information does not become another series of battles like Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD (or Betamax vs. VHS for those who have long memories) is to have a non-profit consortium responsible to citizens to safeguard privacy and set standards for interoperability.

Think of the headaches if you want to change doctors but the new doctor doesn’t use the same medical records system. If you choose to go with the new doctor, you have to figure out a way to get all of the pertinent data into the new system. That’s more time out of your week, more money out of your pocket, and another point where your information could be corrupted or misused.

Now is the time for Microsoft and Google to call a truce and become part of a non-profit consortium for health care records. It won’t be perfect, but when consumers trust that their information is safe, they will sign up to buy in droves. And that would make Wall Street happy, too.