If you are like most people, you probably assume that doctors and nurses are keeping good medical records regarding your health and treatment. You may, however, want to rethink those assumptions.
According to a recent report from Kaiser Health News, medical record errors happen far more often than you may think—and these errors can result in dangerous medical mistakes when you need treatment in the future.
Problems from record errors
Incorrect information in your medical record can cause countless problems. An incorrect diagnosis could be listed in your file, leading to the wrong treatment, or a lack of necessary treatment.
Poor communication between facilities or care teams can lead to conflicting treatment plans that slow down your treatment, at best, and cause you serious injury or death, at worst. Something as simple as forgetting to list a current medication or allergy can cause a life-threatening situation. The most frustrating thing about this is that these errors are all preventable.
Online access to records
On a positive note, more people have access to their health records now than ever before, thanks to electronic record-keeping. One study estimates that over half of all people in the U.S. have access to their online medical records. About 28 percent of those viewed their records at least once in the past year, and people who were encouraged by their physician to access the records were twice as likely to do so. Many of those people found the records useful and easy to understand.
You may not think that correcting errors in your medical record should be your job, but realistically, you may need to do just that. Of the people who viewed their online records, nearly one in ten found and corrected errors and many more updated their information. Even if your doctor or hospital does not offer you online access to your medical records, ask to see your records. You have a legal right to do so.
Doctors cannot expect you to understand the medical terminology or the importance of the information, but you can make sure that the records match what you have been told and review the information you do know, such as medical history and your current medications. Some offices have a paper form for you to submit corrections, and others have an online system. Some errors, like a phone number, are simple to correct, but some may be more complicated, like a diagnosis.
When doctors make medical mistakes because of poor record-keeping, you may have a medical malpractice case against them. Still, you are the one who suffers from that mistake. If something in your medical record is confusing, ask about it. If you think something is incorrect, speak up. Your health and safety may depend upon it.