Your aging parent is having some medical concerns. As their son or daughter, you think it will be a breeze to help them through doctor and hospital visits, paperwork, insurance, and so on. But do you have the right to your senior’s medical records? Or your spouse’s medical records?
Not automatically. It’s a matter of privacy. Their records are private, just as yours are, accessible only by them and anyone else they happened to designate. If you’re jumping in to help, it could cause the process to slowdown if you aren’t specifically chosen by them.
This affects not only spouses or grown children trying to help their aging parents, but also patients who may want their primary caregiver (family or otherwise) to have access to their medical records.
Often paperwork is given at the doctor’s office or the hospital that has the patient provide a name and contact information for anyone additional who is allowed to receive information about the patient’s medical. If this paperwork isn’t given automatically, the patient can and should request an authorization form designating permission.
Incidentally, a doctor is allowed to give information to a spouse or family member if he or she is present during a doctor’s visit or a hospital stay. If the patient has a family member come with them to the doctor, the doctor can assume that the patient wants the family member to have access to the medical information being given unless the patient states otherwise.
While being at the doctor with the patient may allow you to hear current diagnoses or recommendations, it does not guarantee full medical record access. If the patient wants you to be able to access more than the current conversation, have them authorize you in writing.