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.
Lori-Ann and her father
As my dad was aging, we went to a lot of doctors. It was often difficult to make sure that my dad and my family understood what was happening with his health. Because my dad had been a Methodist minister for over 65 years, many people knew him and were concerned about his health. My dad was a very proud man and didn’t want everyone knowing what he was going through. It was often hard to balance getting all the important information to the people who needed to know but keeping my dad’s private information private.
If you are trying to manage this for your family, you need to know some basics about health privacy. First, healthcare providers have specific rules to keep your health information private. It helps to know these rules in order to get the information you need:
- Only the patient can give authorization to release their health information to family and friends.
- The patient doesn’t need to sign an authorization if the family member is with them at the time of the doctor visit.
- Your doctor can give your health information to other healthcare providers who are treating you or your insurance company without your authorizaiton.
- You are entitled to your health records. If you ask for them, the doctor must give them to you.
- Your healthcare provider must protect your health information whether it’s on paper or in an electronic format.
- If you need any specific information, make sure you ask for it.
- If you only want certain individuals in your family to get health information about your loved one, make sure you are very specific with your healthcare provider.
Knowing these rules helped me manage my dad’s healthcare and keep his information private when necessary.
Have you had any problems with your or your family’s health privacy? I’d love to hear from you!
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Our helpful health care links focus on two hot topics in healthcare this week– An update on the devastating earthquake in Nepal and an what it looks like when a healthcare record is hijacked. Both are worth your time. And, as always, if you ever come across a healthcare story that you think merits more attention, please send it our way!
Inside Nepal’s Next Challenge: Overflowing Hospitals
Hospitals throughout Nepal are flooded with patients, with thousands in need of care for acute injuries after a massive earthquake that the country’s leader said may have killed up to 10,000.
A Day in the Life of a Stolen Healthcare Record
The process of divining the provenance of stolen healthcare records. These records typically are processed or handled by a gauntlet of third party firms, most of which have no direct relationship with the patient or customer ultimately harmed by the breach.
P.S.–TODAY is your last day to sign up for the ObamaCare Enrollment Extension!
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