Friday, January 6, 2012

Why All Patients Should Request Their Medical Records

NPR recently ran an an informative piece on why patients should know what's in their medical records, and some of the blowback from the medical profession on this issue.

As a personal injury attorney one of our standard practices in any auto or other accident claim is to request our clients' complete medical chart from their primary care physician (PCP), since many injured clients frequently seek treatment from their PCP after a collision (a good idea, by the way, unless there is an immediate need to see a specialist like an orthopaedic physician). Moreover, we also need to know whether there was any history of any injuries or treatments to the body parts injured in the crash, so the PCP's records are a good place to start. As such, we read volumes of medical records.

There are two huge reasons why you need to request a complete copy of your PCP's office records.


Have you ever filled out an application for health, life, or disability insurance and attempted to answer endless questions about doctors you've seen and conditions you've had? There's a reason why they're so detailed. Your application is a possible club for them to use to cancel your policy if you get seriously ill and turn in hundreds of thousands of medical bills. It's called "recission," and insurance companies have engaged in a recent trend of hiring recission teams that scour your application for inconsistencies or ommissions, and then claim that you "misrepresented" your application. Result? Policy cancelled. And time to call an attorney...

According to Wendell Potter, former director of corporate communications for CIGNA health insurance and author of the book "Deadly Spin,"a 2006 Congressional investigation found 3 large insurers retroactively nixed nearly 20,000 policies over a 5-year period.

Life and disability insurance companies are not immune from these shady tactics either. You can read about them here.

Here is one way to blunt these tactics and bulletproof yourself against a possible recission/cancellation claim. The next time you have to fill out an application for insurance, get a copy of your doctor's office chart. Not only will you have a handy reference for all of your past medical history you're required to list on the application, consider attaching your records to it! I did this recently, along with a typewritten statement that said "because I cannot remember every medical visit/treatment I've had over the last five years, I am attaching a complete copy of my family doctor's office chart." With that degree of thoroughness, how can any insurance company argue that you "failed to disclose material medical information?" Problem solved.


Every time I read a doctor's office chart I learn something about that doctor. Many amaze me with their thoroughness and attention to detail and a genuine concern for their patients. It shows in the chart. Many times after reviewing my clients' medical chart I will call them and let them know how detailed the chart and how thorough their doctor is.

The opposite is also true as well. Some charts include all sorts of extraneous information and even the doctor's own personal opinions and musings about their patient, or their injury claim. I've also personally seen sloppy and even inaccurate or incorrect information contained in many charts. When clients discover this, they are often hurt or angry that their doctor would include such information in their chart.

Either way, you learn quite a bit about your doctor and the "on paper" state of your medical health when reading your own records. And one final point: if you discover inaccurate information, you have every right to confront your doctor and ask him or her to correct it.

After all, the chances are good that another set of eyes at a behometh insurance company will eventually be reading them. You might as well look at them first. After all, they're your records...

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