California Cases Highlight Difficulties in Accessing Patient Medical Records
Two California cases in which patients had difficulties obtaining medical records from hospitals after they accused the hospitals of wrongdoings highlight a nationwide trend of similar difficulties, the USA Today reports.
Under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, every patient or a designated representative has the right to view and copy the patient's medical record. But HIPAA also allows providers to withhold certain information, such as psychiatric documents and those generated for legal action, as long as they explain the reasons to patients.
Difficulties and delays in obtaining medical records from hospitals can disrupt medical malpractice cases, which have statutes of limitations set by state law that range from one to seven years.
Health specialists say the best way to avoid a problem is to routinely ask for the records. Patients also can request investigations or other help from state medical boards or the federal Office of Civil Rights at HHS.
However, Julieanne Fellmeth, administrative director at the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, said her review of the California Medical Board found that investigations of complaints took an average of 2.6 years to complete (Davis, USA Today, 4/29).