Pick up medical records on changing providers?
August 8, 2012 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I recently changed jobs--and health insurance providers. As a result I need to change dentists (and possibly GPs). I am in good health--should I bother collecting my dental/medical records and giving them to the new doctors? I am entitled to them under HIPAA, right?

I don't there's anything I'm particularly concerned about getting continuity of care for--no chronic illnesses or whatever. But, in the case of the dental records, for instance, my X-rays would presumably be included, and that might show whether something is a cavity or a pit in the sealant I had on my molars. Would they be helpful to my next dentist (maybe)? Would my historical normal bloodwork be useful to a new GP--beyond me just saying, "I have had blood tests and the last guy said everything was normal"?

How is this done in this modern world--do they email you an archive, or do you pick up original x-rays etc.?

Any other pitfalls or best practices?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nah. What you do is sign a form at your new providers office and they request the records. Easy peasy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:46 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Generally what will happen is your new doctor or dentist will give you a form to fill out with the name/address/phone of your old doctor or dentist. You sign it, authorizing the transfer of records. The new doctor or dentist takes care of the records transfer for you by sending the signed form over to your old doctor or dentist.
posted by tckma at 11:48 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's nice for your new docs to have your old records as something to use as a baseline for good health, especially if you have something come up that's on-again, off-again, for instance.

That said, I hardly ever remember to forward my records to new MDs and it's never been a problem.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:50 AM on August 8, 2012

Your new doctor's office usually does this for you. However, IME, not one single time has a new doctor declined to repeat every single test the old doctor already performed.
posted by elizardbits at 11:50 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm switching dentists soon and my current dental office told me to contact them once I have a new dentist and they will mail my records to the new office. For what it's worth, I've never done this before -- on the first visit, a new dentist will just go through my mouth and chart what I've had done, and a new doctor will ask for a medical history. Basically it's up to you, but if you don't have any big issues it's probably not worth the trouble of transferring your records.
posted by jabes at 11:52 AM on August 8, 2012

I keep a copy of all my medical records, just in case. yes they are forwarded with ease but with medical companies going bankrupt or changing partners lost records are a possibility, it's more comforting for me to have on hand with my unique allergy's and medical idiosyncrasy's
posted by kanemano at 11:56 AM on August 8, 2012

I like to keep a set of my records for myself because I have had the experience of a practice being dissolved and lots of records (including mine) being lost.

However, I would ask my new places to request an extra set for me when they get their set from the old places, because they've got the paperwork down to a science.

I was in quite good health for most of my life, but there were a couple of things from decades ago that might have been warning signs for my current chronic illness, and it would have been great to have test results, etc., from those issues to compare to my current status. Alas, no.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on August 8, 2012

Having worked in dental and medical offices, I will chime in to say the short answer is, yes it is absolutely worth your time to collect copies of your records and bring them to new doctors.

Why is it worth your time? Because doctor offices are staffed by humans and machines, neither of which are perfect yet. Faxes don't always go through, large fax transmissions at midday get cancelled because 100 other people are needing to fax, mail gets lost and destroyed, requests get lost, phone messages get lost or ignored, records that don't belong in an existing chart get destroyed. Every day at every doctor office I've ever worked at there has been a new patient whose records we didn't completely have.

There are a few reasons for this. The one that irks me the most is that many offices, when sending records will only send labs and diagnostics that that doctor ordered. So, if you aren't specifically asking every single doctor to each fax over your records, they don't make it. (Of course, when you do ask every single doctor to send records, then they all send absolutely everything in your chart, so your new doctor has 16 pounds of duplicative paper. Equally annoying.)

The one that I'm dealing with recently is that the new Electronic systems are fed their data by humans. So for the last 6 months, every medical test I've had performed has included a phone call from the doctor (at least 2 days after the lab, etc has confirmed that they have sent the results). The doctor says, "I got a message that you've called about your ____...I don't have the results yet." How does this apply to you? Well. If it's not in your chart, the new doctor will never see it. But if you get a copy of your complete record, you can review it for completeness and accuracy.

A third is that Mr Smith didn't mention that he'd self referred to a neurologist 2 years ago until he was in the room with Dr B about his headaches. Mrs J never suspected that her C-section has something to do with her abdominal pain, and her GP doesn't have the notes from that event. etc. Doctoring is as much detective work as anything else.

In the future, I want you (and everybody!) to know that you can request a copy of each office note, to compile your record as you go. This prevents mis-dictations from staying in your chart (hopefully). I've caught some doozies in my own. It also allows you to discuss the misunderstanding with your doctor at the next visit. Be aware that dictations take a few days, maybe a week in some services. Be patient, don't harrass the doctors' offices for your records.

Last reason to have your records, you can have them forever. Many practices will keep papers indefinitely. The first dental practice I managed had been bought from an older doc. The attic had records back to the 1950s. Other practices purge at the minimum allowable time frame. Once you get them home, scan them in and back them up, so that if your house catches on fire you aren't scrambling to find a ream of paper in the dark.

Compiling and copying/printing your full record may take one day or up to several weeks, depending on a thousand factors that I cannot even begin to describe. There may be a fee per page for the copying. Follow up politely once a week. Offer to come pick it up on a particular date. Call the day before to confirm that you are going the next day. Keep track of everyone you speak to about this. First phone call, name/date/time. Confirmation, name/date/time, details about any charges and how payment may be made. Don't throw a wrench in your own works by only bringing cash.
posted by bilabial at 1:02 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and to answer your question about the usefulness of the previous test. Yes. Having a history of bloodwork is great. "normal" is a range to be interpreted by a doctor. So if your place within the normal range has changed, a doctor will like to be able to observe that change. Same for blood pressure.

You do not usually have the option to pick up the original radiographs, because law requires offices to keep them (for lawsuits, and other reasons). You can request copies of the xray films, and discs of any MRI or PET scan images.
posted by bilabial at 2:52 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to assume you've already checked with your current healthcare providers and they don't take your insurance necessitating your getting new providers.

I work in a dental office, if I take a call from a potential new patient, I will ask them to contact previous office and request xrays. I want those xrays on hand at the patient's initial visit with us for several reasons: To compare with any images we may take. To keep us from having to repeat images that were very recently taken. Insurance companies don't allow some codes to be billed too frequently.

If we are doing a comprehensive exam, then having some background information is very helpful. With so many xrays being digital now, transferring records is very quick and easy for us to do now. I'm way more happy to get right on sending the records than before when I had to make copies of everything.
posted by Jazz Hands at 4:44 PM on August 8, 2012

I agree with bilabial. "Normal" means different things to different doctors. My blood work which was "normal" to my OB/GYN showed signs of PCOS when reviewed by a reproductive endocrinologist. (I relate my own experience as a patient because I'm an ER doctor and I don't personally deal in nuance).

Also, unless you remember every date you've had a screening test or immunization done, the records will help your new doctor know which tests or shots might need to be repeated. For example, when was your last tetanus? Was it Td, or TdaP? If it was Tdap and you're an adult under age 65, you're recommended to get TdaP now. When was your last cholesterol panel? Have you ever had a cholesterol panel checked? Etc.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:18 PM on August 8, 2012

« Older Help me get out of the military industrial complex   |   Singleton relocation, relocation with the UK Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.