20 Ways Patients Request Medical Records & Their Health Information

20 Ways Patients Request Medical Records & Their Health Information

The concept of patient access is often spoken about very matter-of-factly, “just request a copy of your records” or “patients have a right to access their medical records”, as if it was a straight-forward, standardized process.

There is a significant difference between technical interoperability from a vendor and systems standpoint and the real-world interoperability that supports the workflows of a patient navigating their care and their life with a diagnosis or diagnoses.

Medical records and health information need to flow continuously, seamlessly, and actionably in order for patient care to be coordinated, safe, and guided by informed decision making.

Because of a fragmented health care ecosystem, patients must carry a substantial burden of coordinating the intricate details of their respective care. Much of the success and sustainability of the work patients and their carepartners do is deeply dependent on access to all patient health information.

All patient records requests are not the same, nor are they all equal in priority. Medical records requests may encompass a broad spectrum of points of contact as there is rarely a single contact that handles the broad-spectrum of patient records requests.

Here are 20 ways that patients may request medical records:

  • A patient may hand write their own version of a medical records request and:

    • fax it,
    • scan it and email it,
    • scan it and submit it as message via their patient portal,
    • hardcopy mail it, or
    • drop it off in person, leaving it with the front desk receptionist.
  • A patient may fill out a standardized medical records request form, provided by a health care delivery organization (HDO) or physician’s practice and follow any of steps A-E above.

  • A patient may call their HDO or physician’s practice and verbally request a copy of their records over the phone.

  • A patient may directly visit the medical records department of their HDO or physician’s practice and request records in person where they may be directed to fill out a medical records request form.

  • A patient may ask for a copy of their medical records during their doctor appointment.

  • A patient may ask their doctor to call their specialist or their lab for test results.

  • A patient may request images on CDs directly from the radiology department, following any of steps A-E highlighted above.

  • A patient may request images on CDs directly from the doctor who ordered the imaging by way of the receptionist, their nurse, or the actual doctor, following any of steps A-E highlighted above.

  • A patient may request pathology slides directly from the pathology department, following any of steps A-E highlighted above.

  • A patient may request pathology slides from the doctor who performed their surgery or ordered their biopsy by way of their receptionist, nurse, or the actual doctor, following any of the steps A-E above.

  • A patient may request tissue blocks directly from the pathology department following any of steps A-E highlighted above, with potential additional forms needed to access the tissue blocks which are typically stored at an off-site storage facility.

  • A patient’s carepartner or designated advocate may request records on a patient’s behalf, following any of the aforementioned steps A-E, often being asked to provide further proof of authorization for access.

  • Patients may request to have their medical records sent to an app of their choosing.

  • Patients may fax and call multiple numbers within and throughout departments at HDO or physician practices, hoping one of the request attempts will “stick” and someone will fulfill the records request.

  • Upon numerous failed attempts, patients may escalate their records requests to the HDO Privacy or Compliance Officer(s), the Office of Patient Experience, or the Office Manager of a physician practice, following any of steps A-E above.

  • Patients may request all their billing information from the finance office, following any of the steps A-E above, as well as by having their designated carepartner or advocate help.

  • Patients may ask to inspect their medical record, following any of the steps highlighted in A-E, as well as having their designated carepartner or advocate help.

  • Patients may contact their HDO or physician’s practice to request the data from medical devices, such as the Medtronic Insertable Cardiac Monitor, following any of the steps A-E above, as well as having their designated carepartner or advocate help.

  • Patients who need to fax their medical records request may need to use a fax machine at their place of employment or at the likes of a local UPS store, which may jeopardize patient privacy.

  • Patients may request that their patient portal be updated with missing information, such as test results, office notes, OpenNotes, surgical reports, etc., following any of the steps in A-E, by way of the receptionist, nurse, or the actual doctor who is associated with the information.

Patient access is an ever-evolving and complex continuum of endless possibilities. Too many patient access workflows are poorly organized, primarily manual, and paper-based, with zero empathy while simultaneously lacking real-time communication. HIPAA is too often misunderstood by individuals at HDO or physician practices and erroneously cited as the reason why patient and carepartner records requests cannot be fulfilled. It’s no surprise that patients and their carepartners face severe information blocking.

This is essentially a cruel version of the game of hide & seek: finding how to get to my HIPAA-promised medical records and health information.

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently published their Patient Records Electronic Access Playbook to help dispel myths about HIPAA as well as to provide support to physicians and practices on how to properly drive patient access to their health information. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has a guide for patient access, with resources on how individuals may obtain a copy of their medical records. Both resources primarily focus on traditional access to records, not the broad-spectrum listed above.

Unblock Health recognizes that patients and their carepartners have critical work to do in navigating their diagnoses, coordinating their care, as well as in advancing clinical research and innovation. Information blocking denies patients access to the very information they need to make empowered, informed decisions about their care. Every minute lost to a poorly designed patient access workflow is time lost to a diagnosis.

While essentially every aspect of the patient experience has been digitized with innovation, the health care industry has repeatedly turned a blind eye to modernizing the medical records request process.

This ends now with Unblock Health.

Unblock Health is a FHIR native, EHR integration-friendly solution that replaces current inefficient medical records request and patient access workflows with standardized, fully digitized processes, designed to bring empathy and real-time communication to best support patient access. Our technology is the bridge builder between HDO and physician practices and patients and carepartners.

Unblock Health:

  • simplifies and standardizes the continuum of patient access workflows,

  • triages the broad spectrum of incoming access requests,

  • supports real-time lines of communication between brick and mortar health care and modern-day patients, carepartners, and consumers,

  • supports health information management (HIM) professionals prepare their organizations for compliance with Cures Rules

  • helps HDO and physician practices become Cures Rules compliant through personalized education and modernized technology as a corrective action,

  • remedies outdated information blocking workflows and reduces, if not prevents, potential future penalties as per the Cures Rules.

Reach out to continue the conversation with an Unblock Health demo today.

Yours in Unblocking Health,

Shahid Shah and Grace Cordovano


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