Tuesday, February 3, 2009
They LOST My Medical Records!!!
I wrote most of this yesterday (Monday) and am leaving it with emotions and all. I did delete some of it though. I hope that anyone reading this who works in the medical field will take this distressed patient's post to heart... and please make sure you and your staff/coworkers ARE careful with your patient's information. I know mistakes happen. It could happen with anyone. It just sucks when it is you! And please...if you have any suggestions to help or opinions to share...they will be most appreciated by this patient. Thank you. :)
*** I put a link at the bottom of my post to an excellent site about all kinds of identity fraud and the videos are good. I highly recommend that you watch them..they are short. The average person is unaware of these things. I think it would be a good idea for employers to review with there staff just how serious an issue this is and what can happen as a result of carelessness.
I am MAD!
Slightly amused. Because...WHAT are the odds???
Damn it to heck! I am frickin UPSET!
Upset..covers it ALL I guess.
Believe me...my words DO NOT convey the depth of "UPSET" I am feeling!!
I KNOW mistakes happen... but when it is you they make the mistake with it SUCKS! BIG TIME!
So what am I talking about?
Suffice it to know...I am very particular about confidentiality. If you tell me not to tell someone that their pants are on fire..I won't!
I abhor when confidentiality is broken.
As an employee... I was careful and guarded about patient confidentiality.
If you met me...you might think oh she's so chatty...she will talk about anything. No. I don't. I always respect privacy.
Maybe I was overly sensitive about my privacy... but this demonstrates just how private I am.
I had only been working at the hospital a couple of years. I wanted to have some skin tags removed. No big deal. I had handled hundreds of them by that time because all the labs were dropped off for us to process at the end of the day..after office hours. (This was prior to OSHA standards being implemented. After that specimens were practically gift wrapped!)
I was careful to choose a surgeon I worked around who I knew was particular, demanding and expected everyone to tow the line and he was not one of the doctors that I heard openly discuss his patients, not caring who was within earshot. When I saw that happen...that mortified me as a prospective patient and is ultimately why I chose my doctors outside the hospital system I worked for. I soon realized that patients were discussed by all medical staff at dinner, in various departments, things that as a patient... I would not want to be discussed.
It is difficult enough to be a patient and the patient should at least be able to trust that their dignity and right to privacy is being respected...I don't care who the patient is. It did become better with HIPAA being enacted.
But I never...in all my years working at the hospital ..ever heard that particular surgeon discuss one patient in a way that wasn't appropriate. So I chose him to laser the skin tags. And I know this is ridiculous and I did get over it... but I was so shy about my skin tags being handled/examined by my coworkers in lab that I requested he send them out and he did.
Now I wouldn't do that and I did go on to have some other things done there.
But.. I am not kidding when I say I am particular about privacy. A patient's chart is a legal document that has personal information. No one...other than the people you entrust that information to should ever be privy to it for any reason.
So what the heck has me reeling?
I am going to see my PMD today and so I called the office staff of the doctor who passed away in December. I knew they would send me my files when they got to it and so I wasn't rushing them, but I wanted them to send copies of my most recent labs to my PMD so he would have them when I came in later.
She had me hold for a bit and then came back and informed me that they did not have my records...that they were LOST!!!!!
My thoughts went into breaking the sound barrier speed and I couldn't even make a sentence because so many thoughts were flying through my brain. All I could get out was "Lost?" and she went on to say that... now get this... I am the ONLY patient who has a missing medical record.
It gets better... I am the ONLY patient... of ALL his patients for which he has medical records going back approximatelyTHIRTY YEARS who's MEDICAL RECORDS ARE MISSING!!!
What are the odds of that? If she was telling me the truth...I am the only one. The ONLY patient who has her personal information SOMEWHERE it doesn't belong!
I am LIVID!
I was polite (because I was SPEECHLESS!), no... because I know it was a mistake.
She told me they didn't have my last visit. Or the lab results from the visit before. She will contact the place I had them drawn in and fax them over. She said they have something from 2008.
But I started with him in 2004. She said I hadn't been there that much as if there wouldn't be much to locate anyway... but I have been thinking about this nonstop and he had my file in his arms and it is pretty thick because I have had a lot of things going on. He saw me as an inpatient twice and he did have a good size folder on me. That means there are a lot of papers missing!!!
I never finished writing my post about him, but this doctor was the only doctor to diagnose the autoimmune disorder and I had seen other doctors, including an autoimmune doctor. He saved me from having to have a gallbladder procedure/surgery because he knew it was caused by the urology procedure, etc. There is a lot of important information in my records. Aside from my new urologist group that took my case on in January 06...he was the PMD that also followed my progress. I could go on. The records have a lot of valuable information.
Or am I wrong? Is this not a big deal? Will some other doctor just pick up where he left off? Does it not matter if we don't know all the details?
I thought if you have the FACTS you can better ascertain what treatments may or may not be appropriate. This doctor was thorough and laid a good foundation.
Okay...the most serious thing has been the urology issues. I am in good hands with that group and they have all that information. I also am a good historian with my medical history.
But I would think the physician's notes, etc... are important! HE...wanted to know every little bit of minutia because he put all the info together so that if something did go wrong... he could say..this is happening..because that happened, etc. That is what the receptionist told me in the beginning.
And even worse then losing my pertinent medical information is that now MY PERSONAL INFORMATION IS WHERE IT SHOULD NOT BE!
She said she checked with the transcriptionist and in the office. (Where is the transcription done? in office or another location?) I asked if they checked with his family... maybe in his home office? She said they checked. I saw him on December 22nd and it was the last day he worked. I am thinking he must've had it with him. ? Then again why take a patient's chart out of the office on a Christmas break? It is just odd...because that chart should be the most recent he handled and so you would think staff would have it at their finger tips. ???
Did the cleaning person abscond with it? Left in the car? Fall out onto a sidewalk? Misfiled?
She said it was probably misfiled. Well no doubt they were pulling records like crazy.
When I spoke with them in the beginning of January she said I was 80 on the list for getting copies. She said they would do the first 2 years first and then later do the rest. No problem.
But now... I am wondering...does some other patient have MY PERSONAL INFORMATION???
And by that I mean... my husband's social security number, my social security number, home address and phone numbers, employers, medical conditions, treatments, meds and whatever else might be in there.
And btw...insurance card fraud occurs to and can totally obliterate your coverage if someone gets their hands on your insurance card?
Here is a link to a post written by ED Dr WhiteCoat in which he discusses the rise in medical fraud and has a link to an important article to read. The comments are interesting and now I guess I really should follow through with my own advice in the comment section. :(
Should I be calling my insurance company to alert them and get a new ID number?
Do I need to do something about social security alerts? I have always been squirrelly about giving out ss#'s since I learned how your life can be DESTROYED with ss# fraud!
I feel so violated, vulnerable and upset!
I said well maybe they were accidentally shredded. She said no they don't shred things. Then she said well we do but not medical records. I would've been happier to hear they were shredded!
I know at the hospital and the VNA...if there was personal patient info to be discarded it had to be shredded or there were special bins to throw it away in. I think immediate shredding is best.
If I received another patient's medical information in mine... I would immediately bring it back to the office. I don't know what I expected her to say... but what she said wasn't good enough and I did not get an apology! (They are a nice staff though)
And so she said they might be there another month and then they are done. The practice is still up for sale. They are just getting the loose ends tied up, patient's records and seeing that they follow through with another doctor. Sadly... she said some patients are still refusing to believe it. I do feel for them. He had patients from the beginning of his practice. Those pts must feel horrible and lost!
She said if they don't call me...to call them in 2 weeks. OH I will! I may go in person! And I am not the screaming, irate patient type...but dang...I am so disturbed about this.
I do wonder...would any of you be upset about this?
Does anyone have any knowledge as to what I should do about this?
Am I overly concerned about insurance and social security fraud or safety with my personal info out there?
I am concerned about identity theft!
What would you do?
I have to tell you...this is one of those things that will bother me for the rest of my life every time I think about it and I will wonder who got my info?
And also...and I HOPE I am wrong about this...is there any reason a doctor's office would intentionally NOT be forthcoming with a patient's records? Could there be things they don't want me to see? I can't imagine what... but would/could that happen. That would be so illegal though.
I was one of his last patients. I saw him on 12/22. I saw him holding my folder. As I said...it was a good size.
I am thinking that since they had one thing from 2008...it must have been the staff who mixed up my med recs with another patient's records.
So... then that patient...or...worse..those patients may have info about me that I haven't even read! And would you or anyone want your private diagnoses, meds, docs evaluations/comments, insurance, and personal identity information for you and your SPOUSE just out there ...SOMEWHERE?
At home... I shred anything that has our bank info, ss#s,insurance info...anything like that...BEFORE it goes out in the trash. Will some stranger be as careful?
Also...I do not know the procedure for selling a practice in this circumstance. What happens to all the files/med recs? Are they locked away for the future doctor?
Do I have any recourse in this?
By that I mean...they will be closing up shop soon and then I will never know anything about this again unless a problem occurs because of this.
It just is not fair! I know...life isn't fair. But this is important to me and there should be someway of finding those records.
So...I am wondering... if they don't get rid of the records... does that mean..they probably have my records somewhere in all those records?
If they do...I WANT THEM FOUND! Also...if they find them...then that should tell them who potentially has them and those people should be contacted. I know with HIPAA Iwould never be allowed to know WHO erroneously got my records, but I would want it documented so that if we ever experience any kind of identity theft or any other kind of privacy violation... there is someone on record to check up on. I have a feeling that is a lot to ask. But I think I have a right to this.
And do they give some patients all their records and that is it and even the office doesn't have records anymore? If that could happen then I am potentially SCREWED from ever finding them. But...since they are making copies...i think they must keep all original records. That makes sense because what if they had to look them up for some other reason...although..who does that?
WHAT would any of you do? Please...any ideas... I welcome your comments.
Is there something any of us may be missing?
Is there something I can do to ensure protecting myself?
And here is the thing. I LIKE the staff. I don't know them well at all but they have always been sweet and helpful.
I know they must be grieving, stressed, feeling lost and displaces and perhaps with out a job soon.
I really do not want to add to their burdens in any way. I do not.
But ...this is so important to me.
I did not get the sense that the nurse I spoke with was appreciating how serous this was to me with her suggesting that since I wasn't there much there wouldn't be much anyway. WRONG!
*As patients...we go to a physician's office and we tell them things that we sometimes don't even tell our families or friends. We expect that our information will be safe at the doctor's office.
I am an open, easy going friendly person... but when it comes to my medical things...I have always been particular about where I go, who I see, what I say...and TRUST is important to me.
When you think of it...all of us exercise trust all the time ...that people will guard our private info... but really...it seems more like Russian roulette or a crap shoot. I just can't believe that out of approximately 30 years of patients...MY records are the ones that are lost...and no one else's!
It's like winning the lottery. It should be so wonderful!
I have joked that I was an old fashioned girl who with all this EMR stuff was not comfortable with a totally paperless office.
After this experience...I say bring em on. Of course as long as you have the human component...errors can occur.
Am I overreacting? I want to put this in the right perspective.
Right now...I feel like I have been robbed. I feel vulnerable. I feel exposed.
I went to the PMD yesterday and after thinking about this all day yesterday... my BP was 180/108. That is oh...just a "tad" high and not my norm. And as I was driving home after seeing mom... I felt like my chest was tightening up and kept pulling my bra away from me thinking it was too tight. But I was stressed and thinking about it and I caught my self only shallow breathing.
Am I overreacting? I want to put this in the right perspective.
Right now...I feel like I have been robbed. I feel vulnerable. I feel exposed.
*Last but NOT least...If anyone feels so inclined...please say a prayer that the records will be found and that we will not be at risk for any identity theft.
* I know some of this was repetitive... but I am venting.of this.
I found this excellent site about all kinds of identity theft. All the videos are good and I think should be watched by everyone so they understand just how serious this is... and how it can wreck lives. Employers are at risk for being sued (NO..that is NOT where I am going with this. I just want my records found and assurance that my personal information, health and financial future has not been compromised in any way because of this...tall order..I know) and not just because of HIPAA laws. There are other laws.. state and federal.
I just want to add that having worked in ED registration for 20 years, I can attest to the fact that some patients get irritated when you ask them for ID and insurance cards to copy. And at the hospital...we had to get those cards at EVERY visit to make sure everything is current and still active. Also..now they can verify on line. It is for both the protection of the patient and the provider. And I would think that in this increasingly difficult financial climate, that providers should be even more vigilant to guard against medical identity theft!
I sincerely hope this helps other people who read this post.
I just want peace of mind about this...wouldn't you?