Do You Have Access to Your OwnMedical Information?
There is currently no legislation in Jamaica that governs a person’s right to access their medical records. On the eve of the International Right to Know Day, September 28, 2013, which marks the recognition of the right of all citizens to access public sector information, let us call on Parliament to draft legislation that grants us the right to access our own medical information as well. (See Medical Health Records Act, UK)
It is a cultural practice that the medical information acquired on a patient belongs to the health facility that compiled them. In other jurisdictions, and probably ought to be adopted here, the health facility is nothing more than the custodian of the actual records, but the information itself belongs to the patient. As such the patient should have full access to their medical records.
Who Should Keep the Original Documents?
It is not the proposal here, that the patient has any ownership rights to the original medical documents themselves, just the information contained therein. The medical facility has the responsibility to maintain physical custody of all their patient records. Instead, where appropriate, patients must be allowed to visually inspect or review their information or request that a copy of the relevant portions be made and given to them, if they request it. It is customary for a nominal fee to be charged for the photocopying or emailing of said documents.
Other persons may also have the right to access the medical information of a patient. They may include a parent, or legal guardian of a child patient, or any person authorized in writing to make the application on the patient’s behalf.
How is it Advantageous to Own a Copy of Your Medical History?
There are several advantages to allowing a patient to have access to their medical information. Being granted access, each patient may begin and maintain a personal docket from every provider ever seen. Having your own docket will:
Mitigate against the loss of records due to them being misfiled or lost to disaster or human error
Facilitate coordination of medical care between various health professionals being consulted, whether local or overseas
Save time in an emergency if someone is taken to a hospital for first time admission. (A docket presented by family members may mean the difference between life and death)
Other benefits to having access to medical information include:
Providing individuals with knowledge to be more actively involved in their healthcare
Allowing patients to have more control in how they direct and manage their healthcare team of providers
Fostering improved records management at health facilities and ensure better customer service delivery
“Access to information requires vigilance. Beyond simply having access to information legislation, there must be a commitment to a culture and spirit of openness. This includes staff and public awareness of access to information principles and appropriate resources for implementation.” (www.ati.gov.jm)
The Gleaner , Wednesday | October 23, 2013