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Are your medical records "classified" information?

Have you ever been a hospital patient and "happened upon" your medical records as they were lying on the nurse's desk? Did the attending nurse glare at you reading the material like you were a kid caught ogling your big brother's Playboys?

To many of us, it has long seemed incongruous that our medical records can be shared with insurance companies, government agencies, and even law enforcement agencies, credit bureaus and employers. Yet we, the subjects in question, are often denied access to them ourselves. Indeed, nearly half the states have laws that restrict patients' access to their own records. The reasons (read "excuses") are many, but are generally in the nature of protecting us from ourselves, lest we draw wrong conclusions from them or even attempt to treat ourselves based on information within.

Given the medical profession's reputation for its practitioners having the world's worst penmanship, many records would probably be indecipherable. However, modem record-keeping techniques, particularly in hospitals, have eliminated much of that, and laboratory, x-ray and similar reports are certainly readable, even if written in a language known only to the initiated. The demand for release of these records is growing, however, and the American Medical Record Association believes that access to them can help you become "a more involved and informed patient, more attentive to your health and more in control of your own healthcare. It will establish a more open, equal, and therefore improved physician-patient relationship. It will provide you with continuity of care when you change doctors and help you protect your privacy by allowing you to inspect and correct information about you that will be released to others."

If you have been denied access to your medical records, one way to deal with the problem is to find a sympathetic doctor who will share information with you. He need only request your records from any doctor or hospital that has them, because a physician is required both by law (in most states) and the rules of American Medical Association conduct to transfer records to another physician at the patient's request. Should this approach not work, you can write the American Medical Record Association, 919 North Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 6061 1, or call (312) 787-2672. For $5, you can obtain a copy of "Medical Records: Getting Yours" from the Health Research Group, 2000 P St., Washington, DC 20036.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:397
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