Recently, Dr. Brian Goldman, the host of the CBC's White Coat, Black Art, spoke about stupid rules that patients experience in the healthcare system.
One of those ‘stupid rules' is requiring patients with known chronic conditions to visit, in person, their family practice physician, in order to get a copy of their own lab results and other reports.
Under most privacy legislation, including Alberta’s Health Information Act, a patient has the right to access their own records about themselves. The information that a patient provides to the healthcare provider belongs to the patient. The healthcare provider is responsible to maintain the information on paper or in a computer and ‘owns’ the documents.
When we collect personal information from our patients and clients, they have the right to access their own information from us. They may want to do this to ensure the information is correct, complete, and has been used only for the purpose to which they agreed. Or, they may simply want their own information so that they can take an active role in monitoring their own health.
Our role is to keep the health information confidential and secure and to allow patients access to their own information without unnecessary obstacles.
We have a ‘duty to assist‘ and to process the patient requests in a reasonable time frame.
Sometimes, the clinic can release the information to the patient right away. Sometimes, it will take a few days, perhaps even up to 30 days in some circumstances, to process the request.
Patients can request access to their information verbally, or in writing. I prefer written requests because it improves communication about what has been requested and prevents errors.
The written request should be easy for the patient to complete, perhaps even download the form from the physician's website and send to the physicians' office. When the patient attends to pick up the reports, the patient presents photo ID to ensure that the information is being released to the correct person.
Some clinics are using secure file share systems that securely deliver the reports to the patients who have authenticated their identity.
Many EMR systems are introducing patient portals where patients can access their own record. Alberta Netcare, the Alberta-wide health information repository, has introduced a limited roll-out to patients to access their own records in Netcare. However, this is not yet widely available.
How can your healthcare practice do better?
Do You Have Stupid Rules in Your Practice?
Click here to listen to Dr. Goldman's interview with Jan and her challenges to access her own patient records.
The interview starts at 10:25 minutes.