‘What part of “Give us our damn data” do you not understand?’

Just give us our damned dataCNN posted an article a few days ago that gives examples of patients and former patients who have had problems accessing (getting copies of) their patient data. I did not find any of the information about the difficulties in accessing personal data to be surprising.

I thought the author’s advice on how to gain access to one’s personal medical data to be worth posting. One isn’t always managing others’ data, quite often the difficulty lies in managing one’s own data.

‘It’s your data’

To make sure you get your medical records, follow these tips.

1. Know your rights
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which governs access to medical records, gives hospitals and doctors 30 days to respond to a request for medical records, although some state laws provide for a shorter time frame, and in urgent situations, such as a transfer to another hospital, it’s customary for hospitals to move more quickly.

Be prepared to make your request in writing, McCabe says. You can bring it in person, or fax the request in, but make sure you confirm that the hospital’s received it.

One way to get your medical records more quickly is to seek out providers who use electronic medical records so the records can be e-mailed to you, she says. Some providers have an electronic portal so you can read your records anytime you want on a secure site on the Internet.


2. Get the new hospital or doctor to help you
Lietz says if you need your records because you’re switching hospitals or doctors, ask the new office to make the records request.

“Have the provider make the request,” she says. “To be honest, it’s going to be faster.”

3. Remember the limits of the law
Your doctor doesn’t have to give you access to everything in your record. For example, your doctor doesn’t have to give you access to information he or she thinks might cause you or someone else substantial harm, says the senior health information privacy specialist at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some states allow even more information to be kept from a patient. For example, the New York Department of Health Web site says doctors may deny you access to “personal notes and observations” they’ve made in your record.

4. Get angry
“Sadly, you might have to get angry in order to gain access to your medical records,” Viars wrote in his blog. “Don’t let them tell you no. It’s your data.”

5. File a complaint
If you have trouble getting access, you can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Do you have any personal experiences where you’ve been denied access to your personal medical records? If so, how did you gain access to that information?

Please let me know what you think....