According to the founder of the Alliance for Professional Health Advocates, it is not uncommon for medical records to contain errors. Patients are advised to take the time to closely examine their medical records.
For Trisha Torrey, this advice paid huge dividends, when she discovered an error that had led her to be wrongly diagnosed with cancer. Had she not been so diligent about scrutinizing her records, she would have undergone chemotherapy and other cancer treatments that she never needed.
Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, patients have the right to both view and obtain a copy of their medical record. If there are inaccuracies identified, patients have the right to have these errors corrected.
If a doctor uses an electronic portal, a patient may be able to view the records from home, without charge. If a medical provider is unable to share the records electronically, patients may be asked to pay for them.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, health plans and health care providers are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for copy and mailing the records. However, reasonable isn’t legally defined.
Although the transition from paper to electronic records makes it simpler for patients to view their records, it has also made it easy to introduce mistakes into the records due to data input or transcription errors. This is especially true when paper records are turned into electronic ones.
A 2012 study examined more than 300 reports of problems involving faulty records at Pennsylvania hospitals and found that errors in electronic medical records could become amplified when the inaccurate information was shared with other providers.
Patients should also verify their medical record in order to ensure that both they and their insurance company are being properly billed.
The Affordable Care Act mandates that certain types of preventive care, such as Pap tests and other preventive visits, don’t carry a co-pay, but If the office tacks on a service that a patient did not receive, she may be billed extra.
If the discrepancy results in a billing error, a patient should contact his insurance company. Even if it doesn’t, it is important to insist on a correction. If a patient and his health provider disagree about the accuracy of the information in the record, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 gives the patient the right to have a statement about his disagreement added to the file.
Medical records are health-care providers’ reference book for a patient’s health, so the importance of making sure it is accurate cannot be overstated.