All of us visit our physicians, sometimes on a regular schedule for a checkup, but sometimes for emergency conditions or traumatic injuries. Do we know what gets recorded by the treating health care providers? Do the records accurately reflect your history, your complaints or reason for your visit, or the impressions or diagnoses noted by the physician/practitioner? Those records may follow you to the end of your life.
You may never have asked for copies of your health records/office notes. However, it is a good practice to do so. If you find errors, whether in your history, your complaints, or if what is written differs from what you have been told about your condition, then amendments, deletions, addendums, or retractions are needed. In the world of electronic health records, the organization creating the record should have guidelines in place for such corrective actions, but those guidelines may vary from organization to organization. We are no longer in the good old days of crossing through and re-writing records.
In a mobile society like ours, having copies of your medical records, even in this digital age, may prove beneficial. Treatment is usually more successful with an accurate picture of medical history.
Under what other circumstances might accurate medical records become important? If you are applying for life insurance, disability insurance, or long term care insurance, the content of your records will play a role in determining your insurability. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed or pre-existing conditions again become an issue for coverage, accurate medical records may affect your insurability. If you are injured at work or in an auto collision, your medical history will also be placed under a microscope.
If the records you are requesting are voluminous, keep in mind there may be a large cost if you request paper copies. Obtaining copies of your medical records, if you request them in electronic format only, should be affordable. The federal Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the HITECH Act) limits what you, as the patient, can be charged; limited to the cost of copying, and labor and supplies for delivery in electronic form. Put your records request in writing, refer to the Act, and make it clear you do not want paper, but electronic format only.