Since I’ve had more than a few visits to the doctor this past year to multiple physicians at multiple clinics for multiple problems, I began to lose track of my medical history. Each time I see a new doctor, I have to remember what treatments I’ve had and when any serious medical events have occurred. After asking around, I realized it’s not that difficult to get copies of your personal medical records. I looked it up online and found that under a 1996 federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, patients have the right to see their complete medical records. This is great for a couple of reasons.
First, you can obtain a list of your history of doctor visits, labs, medical or procedures and then put them all into a timeline to give to your next doctor to help accurately recall any questions about previous treatments. Secondly, you may view notes written by your doctors about you to other doctors or to themselves and get a better understanding of what they are thinking. You may find some enlightening information about your condition or in some cases even discouraging notes (a few notes I recently uncovered confirmed that one of my docs did not agree with my way of thinking, and rather than tell me in person, wrote them in his notes). Or you may find clues in their thought process that maybe they didn’t have time to discuss with you in the usual, hurried, in-and-out patient room visit.
Surprisingly, it was easy to get copies of my medical records. I called each of the clinics I’ve visited within the past year and asked to speak with someone in their medical records department. Then I told them I was collecting a history of my medical records for personal use and would like copies of all records from the clinic within the past year. Each clinic handled their records differently, but were extremely helpful in getting my records available quickly. Some of the offices required a signed release form in exchange for copies of records that same day. Others had to send out for the documents and mail them to my home address which only took a couple of days. All of them did require a signed release form, but asked no further questions.