Maintaining Your Medical Records
Improves Care & Reduces Healthcare Costs
By George Heuser, MD
Most people consider good health their first priority. By managing your health, you can reduce healthcare costs. An
important part of the management process is to maintain your health records. You can request copies from your doctors’
offices and hospitals. If you work with providers that have electronic medical records (EMRs) then that’s an added benefit,
as you may be able to monitor your records online.
Sentara Healthcare, the parent company of Optima Health, has an EMR system
called Sentara eCare®. The system enables better collaboration between
physicians, resulting in a higher quality of care for patients. It’s an innovative
way of engagement that helps prevent errors, detect drug interactions, and
is more secure than traditional paper charts. Additionally, Sentara’s EMR
system connects Sentara Medical Group physician records with Sentara
hospital records and allows patients access to schedule appointments, request
prescription renewals, review lab results, etc. Sentara currently has 36,000
patients engaged in this process that is called MyChart. Not all hospitals offer
this level of service, but many do. I encourage you to take advantage of those
that do. It’s the best way to manage your records.
Back in the late ‘90s, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) gave patients the right to read and
obtain copies of their medical information. The law also gave patients the right to correct mistakes in their medical records.
You may wonder why collecting your medical records is a good idea. It is for a number of reasons.
1. Provides an accurate medical history to prevent drug interactions or overdoses and costly duplicate testing;
2. It shows your health picture over time so that your doctor can identify any changes in your health;
3. It shows the early stages of a chronic disease and how it’s progressing, along with the treatment; and
4. It allows you to verify charges and identify any errors.
Additionally, as parents it’s a great idea to maintain your children’s medical records from birth until adulthood so that
they have a complete set when they leave for college or launch their careers. Parents/guardians have access to their
children’s medical files until they turn 18. Also, you can authorize family, relatives, friends or others in your life to access
your medical records if you so choose.
Remember that it is your responsibility to ask for your medical records, as healthcare providers don’t usually offer them to
you. Also, you may be required to complete a form and pay a fee for the cost of making copies of your records. The law allows
physicians up to 30 days to provide copies, but many provide them faster. Generally you will get them in five to 10 days for
noncritical records, and usually physicians will provide them immediately if they are needed in an emergency situation.
Another option that patients have is to turn to online services such as Google Health (www.google.com/health) or
Microsoft HealthVault (www.healthvault.com) to create electronic personal health records (PHRs). These sites are
designed to work in conjunction with EMRs created by healthcare providers.
However you maintain your health record – whether in a file, tabbed notebook, CD, flash drive or an online site – the
benefits to your health and finances are well worth the investment in time and money.
George Heuser is Vice President and Senior Medical Director at Optima Health.