Have you ever left a doctor’s office feeling like they were too distracted or rushed to really listen to what you were telling them? Did you only realize on the way home from a doctor’s visit that you forgot when they told you to come back for more lab work?
Thanks to a new law that takes effect this April, patients will be able to access their medical records, including the notes their doctor makes during their visits, electronically and at no charge. The law is called the 21st Century Cures Act.
Many health care providers are already sharing this information and more with patients through online patient portals. Now all medical providers will be required to provide it, whether you’re seeing the same family practitioner who has treated you since you were a child or you’re part of a large university health care system.
How the new law improves upon HIPAA requirements
While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gave patients the right to access to their medical records, that access sometimes comes with fees and long wait times. Further, the records don’t have to be electronic. Therefore, a patient might have to work to decipher the stereotypically bad chicken scratches of their doctor.
The information that patients will now be able to access electronically will include not just their doctor’s own notes, but lab and imaging results, medical history, prescribed medications and more. This will help patients confirm that their doctor correctly understood symptoms and other issues they were describing, that they understood their doctor’s instructions and that their doctor has an accurate medical history on them. According to one nursing professor, “About 20% of patients pick up errors in the notes and some report the errors to their providers.”
Seeing lab results online before your doctor has a chance to go over them with you can send you in to a Google frenzy trying to decipher them. However, overall, greater access to medical records improves patient safety. With more visits taking place over video chat services, this access to records can help minimize misunderstandings and mistakes.
Of course, the new law won’t prevent all medical errors and negligence. However, it may help patients gain access to valuable evidence. If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, it’s wise to get some legal guidance.medi