Doctors, nurses, or other professionals involved in health care who treat individuals generate a great number of health records pertaining to the patients. Running into a lot of pages, these records form crucial part of malpractice suit at times. Medical records, when maintained properly, consist of vital details that interpret the reason for any medical procedure going wrong. Hence they are considered very important in the legal point of view. Vital medical details such as blood pressure, oxygen level, or heart fluctuations are recorded on a continuous basis so that any change or detrimental effect may be tracked precisely and quickly.
As they contain personal health details, medical records are privy to select people, namely, the patient, doctor, and any authorized representative of the patient. The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures that no other third party can access these private information.Accessing or sharing medical records with those not authorized is an offense. Under HIPAA, without prior authorization by the patient, any third parties such as employers or even family members cannot access an individual’s protected medical information. In case such protected information has been disclosed to an unauthorized party, legal action can be taken against the entity responsible for custodianship of the information.
Patients have absolute rights over their health records. When a patient makes a formal request for his or her medical records, the hospital, doctor, or the provider needs to oblige within 30 days of such request. Law allows extending the period by another 30 days in special circumstances. Providers may charge a nominal fee for processing and furnishing the records. This amount will be minimal in case of digital records as opposed to paper records.
HIPAA law demands individuals to sign an authorization that empowers providers to view health records that have been protected. This assists the records department of care providers to dispel confusions or doubts, if any, about missing records. It also allows them to request for additional records, when needed. HIPAA law clearly necessitates complete privacy and confidentiality of an individual’s personal health information.
HIPAA law restricts eligibility of claiming health records in the event of death of an individual. The process has been streamlined for making it easier to family members to access their deceased relative’s health records. The right of requesting for a decedent individual’s health records are with the spouse.In case the decedent is unmarried, the records may be accessed by a sibling or parent. The formal request needs to be made in writing and it must consist of an affidavit called Authorized Certification of Relative. The affidavit has to state the requesting person’s relation to the deceased. A copy of death certificate also needs to be attached.
Health records are meant for the well-being of individuals while strict rules must be followed in order to honor the privacy and confidentiality of the sensitive medical details. Complying with stipulated rules and laws need to be mandatory for the safe-keeping of patients’ personal health records.