Patient Access to Medical Records is a Must for Safer Healthcare
Financial barriers, like high fees for patient information, reduce patient empowerment, thwart accountability and risk adverse outcomes
PatientProtection.Healthcare has long held that medical records should be made available free of charge to patients or to designated surviving loved ones.
Yet it is not uncommon for patients and families to be charged up to several thousand dollars for those records, according to reports made to PP.H. Charges of $1000 are frequent. This represents a financial hurdle that most patients and families are unable to clear, and should never be required to when they are typically already under severe physical, emotional, and often financial, stress.
Troubling, too, is the practice of certain healthcare providers to withhold parts of the medical record in an effort to hide errors. In a case involving a cardiac arrest, one of Canada’s largest teaching hospitals withheld the cardiac monitor printout for several years before ultimately disclosing it. It showed unexplained delays between the time of the alarm and the response of the ICU team. In another case, it took multiple efforts to obtain the patient’s full chart, despite the family being assured each time that the hospital had provided the full and complete record. When the missing records were finally provided, they showed numerous and repeated medical errors and breakdowns in care that were not disclosed in the responses to the previous three requests.
An informed patient is a safer patient. Patient feedback is an indispensable learning tool for healthcare providers.
When a cloud of uncertainty and lack of transparency are allowed to come between the patient’s interests and healthcare providers, it undermines the sense of trust and confidence that is necessary in that relationship. Some jurisdictions have abandoned all charges for healthcare records. Ontario is not among them.
As part of our Policy Prescriptions for Safer Healthcare, PatientProtection.Healthcare again, calls on the Ontario government to adopt a no-fee policy in respect of healthcare records, and urges healthcare providers to adopt a similar policy. After all, Ontario and other Canadian provinces have no problem devoting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to pay for the liability insurance premiums of doctors. Surely it is not too much to expect that a similar public commitment should apply to making the healthcare records of patients, who own the information about them that is being collected by hospitals, available without encumbrances to those patients.
If you or a loved one have had a problem obtaining medical records, please let us know. Together, we can make sure that our medical information can be seen and used by us when we need it most.
Kathleen Finlay’s interview on The Morning Show on Global Radio.