How to Get Access to Your Parents’ Health Records

As your parents age, you may become more involved in their medical care. They may ask you to drive them to appointments or help make decisions about their care. As you do this, you may find you need to get access to their health records. Because HIPAA prevents the distribution of medical information to anyone other than the patient, your senior loved one will need to grant you permission (if they choose to do so). Spouses and grown children do not necessarily have access without authorization.

Here are a few tips to help get the information you need to be able to best assist your loved one:

1. Your parent or loved one is in charge.
They have the right to designate who they want to have access to their medical records. If that person is not you, be respectful of their decision.

2. Have your loved one fill out the right form.
When the patient goes into the hospital or doctor’s office, they should specifically ask to fill out a form that says who can get access to their health records.

3. Ask your loved one if they want you present during the medical visit.
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 senior has a family member come with them to the doctor, the doctor can assume that the senior wants the family member to have access to the senior’s medical information unless the senior states otherwise.

4. Have your loved one complete a living will.
A living will is a legal document that states who may make decisions about the patient’s healthcare in the event they are unable to make decisions themselves. It is really important for everyone to have a living will – even you!

With a little extra attention and planning, you will be able to help your parent or loved one with their medical care.

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Why Urgent Care May Not Be Your Best Choice

When you or a family member get sick, do you go to urgent care? If so, you may want to reconsider.

Urgent care facilities have become common. Most people live within close proximity to one or more. These facilities can be handy for quick-fix issues that need speedy attention, but don’t require an emergency room. Urgent care often is open after hours and on weekends, making it a convenient option for busy people. In addition, they are often less expensive than a visit to the emergency room.

Despite all of this, depending on your reason for visiting, urgent care may not be your best choice. Here’s why:

1. Lack of medical history
Your family physician or pediatrician knows you and your children best. They have records of all of your previous visits and are familiar with your medical history. The urgent care facility will not have this same understanding of your background. They will be able to assess your current illness or ailment, but will not have your full medical history to add context to the situation.

2. Possible drug interaction issues
You always want to be careful about drug interactions between anything you are taking now and whatever the urgent care physician prescribes. Because that physician does not have your full medical history, they also may not know what you are currently taking or what you have had experience with – good or bad – in the past. If you do go to urgent care, make sure you tell them everything about medications you are taking now, allergies, or adverse effects you have experienced in the past. Then check with your pharmacist and your family physician to make sure the any medication prescribed by the urgent care physician is safe for you to take.

3. Difficulty following up
When you visit urgent care, you may have trouble following up with the physician you saw. Sometimes the staff you saw at night is not available during the day, or they may hold a position with another medical facility during other hours. Often, the urgent care physician will tell you during your visit to schedule a follow-up appointment with your own family physician. This is always a good idea and will give you the opportunity to address any questions or concerns you had after your urgent care facility, as well as allow your family physician to update your medical history.

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About Do Not Resuscitate Orders

A recent news story highlighted an ethical dilemma that arose for doctors who were treating an unresponsive patient and found “Do Not Resuscitate” and a signature tattooed on the patient’s chest. Fortunately, the physicians eventually were able to locate an actual Do Not Resuscitate form for the patient and could, therefore, honor those wishes.

Just what is a Do Not Resuscitate, or DNR, order? A DNR expresses, in a legal format, your wishes not to have lifesaving measures performed should the need arise. This document provides clear direction for your hospital, assisted living facility or nursing home.

Upon admittance to a health facility, you may be asked about your wishes should an event arise where you are unable to answer in the moment. For example, if you stop breathing, have a heart issue, a stroke or any other condition that may put you in a position for life-saving measures, do you want the hospital to do everything possible to keep you alive?

There is no right answer. You may decide you want life-saving measures, or you may decide you don’t want them. When my parents were nearing the end of their lives, they made the decision that they had lived full lives and if they were to stop breathing, they wanted to be left to die. The point is that you should make this decision at a time when you are able to avoid the decision being made for you.

Although DNR is a common term, you may hear some hospitals refer to this as “no code,” which means they won’t call for help to revive you if you stop breathing or are unconscious. The hospital may also refer to “allowing a natural death,” which means the same thing.

If you haven’t already, discuss your Do Not Resuscitate wishes with your doctor, hospital or healthcare facility. They will let you know how to proceed with the proper paperwork.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/do-not-resuscitate-dnr-tattoo-leaves-doctors-debating-whether-to-save-his-life/

Do you want to learn more about navigating the health care system? Pick up my book Your Hospital Stay in which you can learn about the other documents you should have in place.