Patient to Hospital:Let Me Read My Chart!

I have yet to figure out why hospitals make it so difficult for a patient or a  HIPAA representative to gain access to a chart while in the hospital.   As an advocate, I like to read the chart, get the updates on labs, diagnostic test results and medical notes.  I like to review the medications in case my client has any questions.

I don’t have any problems because I know the HIPAA laws.  I have studied them, taken courses and continually review the parameters.  There is nothing in the law that gives hospital a pass on letting patients review the chart.  Nor is there any where  in the law that says they can create regulations that delay a look at the current inpatient chart.

A client of mine called in tears because she wanted to see the hospital chart.  Her spouse was inpatient and being a nurse she wanted more information.  It was simple request which elicited the response of:    “You can only see it in the presence of a doctor.” When is the doctor available?  “I will ask him but no earlier than tomorrow, probably.”

Now imagine getting a doctor in the hospital to sit down with you and read the chart. It is  unlikely because hospitalists and specialists are very busy.  It will never be a priority.    I had never heard of a regulation like this before and was just a bit annoyed.  I told my client, it was not how the HIPAA law worked.  She said she would wait.  That evening, as she was getting ready to go home, a nurse told her the doctor couldn’t do tomorrow or any day.   The message was, he had given her all the information.

She was then told to ask for a copy of the medical records to be sent to her primary so she wouldn’t have to pay.  When she went to medical records, they said she couldn’t have a copy until after discharge.  She called me so very frustrated.

I have been in similar situations  when a hospital won’t let the client see the current records.  I always tell my client to go to the HIPAA compliance office.  By law, every facility and practice has to have a compliance officer.  Tell them what you want.  There is no issue here.  HIPAA is clear on the right’s of patients to view there charts.  You have to stand your ground because it is your right.  You can look at your chart and you can get a copy of current notes.  If the hospital compliance office does not respond, then call the state HIPAA compliance office.

But why should it be so hard?  My client was wondering if they were hiding something.  I told her probably not.  It is just the attitude of hospitals about charts.  It seems to be endemic.  I suppose the logic is if everyone wanted to see their charts on the floor, it could get in the way of care.  The reality is most people don’t want to look at their charts.  Don’t make it impossible for people to get information.  Medical teams think they are giving all the information but most the time this is not the case.

It doesn’t have to become a dog fight to get a look at a chart.  Just stand your ground.  No matter what extra regulations a hospital has in regards to viewing medical information, it cannot supersede HIPAA law.