When medical mistakes and errors are made, we expect our medical records to provide clues as to what happened, as well as how such an error could have occurred. Unfortunately, patients involved in medical malpractice cases are often shocked when denied access to their medical records or when they find that pertinent information about their injury is missing from their file. Medical record negligence can present hurdles when it comes to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Fortunately, recent guidelines have gone into effect that may now make obtaining medical records easier for patients, thereby making it easier to hold negligent medical providers accountable.
Holding Doctors and Hospitals Accountable
One of the first steps in a medical malpractice case is obtaining medical records from the physician. These records are thoroughly examined in order to determine who should be held accountable. Unfortunately, figuring out how to get medical records can be difficult, as medical providers are often reluctant to give access to information that could implicate them in a lawsuit. According to a January 2016 article in The New York Times, the Obama administration has issued new guidelines that will make it easier for patients and their lawyers to obtain medical records and files, preventing doctors and hospitals from denying access to information that is vital to your medical negligence claim.
How Will Easier Access to Medical Records Affect Patients?
In terms of the process for requesting medical records, the new guidelines prevent medical providers from requiring patients to state the reasons they want access to the files, information that could tip those providers off to a potential medical malpractice claim. The New York Times article states that the new guidelines include the following:
- Providers cannot require patients to pick up files in person if the patient requests the records be mailed.
- Providers cannot withhold records from patients who have not paid their bills.
- Providers may charge a fee to cover the costs of copying a file but may not charge simply for searching for or retrieving data.
How to Access Your Medical Records in Indiana
According to George Washington University’s Health Information and the Law project, obtaining medical records is now as simple as making a written request and paying any associated copying fees. Those who may request medical records include the following:
- Any competent adult or emancipated minor may request their own records.
- Spouses, guardians, and personal representatives may request records for minors as well as those who are physically or mentally incompetent or deceased.
If you are currently in the hospital receiving medical treatment, the question of how to get medical records is a bit more complicated. According to the Health Information project, hospitals are not required to release medical records to patients currently undergoing treatment. At the same time, the law does provide that this information can be released to the patient’s spouse, guardian, or next of kin.
Why Are Medical Records Important in Indiana Medical Malpractice Claims?
Medical records can provide evidence that proves a medical error or mistake occurred. Obtaining medical records is also important in terms of the time it takes to resolve your medical malpractice claim. Medical record negligence — involving records that are missing, have been tampered with, or where information has been deleted — makes it difficult to prove when and where medical mistakes or errors occurred, and denying or delaying access to medical records could be seen as a way for the medical provider to avoid being held accountable. Sometimes it is helpful if a patient will obtain their own medical records before seeing an attorney. While the attorneys at Baker & Gilchrist will request your medical records directly from your healthcare providers, when a patient obtains a copy first we have found that sometimes they contain records that have been omitted when responding to a lawyer’s request.
Contact Our Experienced Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical error or mistake in Indianapolis, Avon, or any of the surrounding areas, contact the law office of Baker & Gilchrist today. Our experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorneys can advise you on how to hold responsible parties accountable and assist you in pursuing compensation for your injuries. Call or contact us online today for a free consultation.