Are Your Medical Records Important?

Well…what do you think?

You know the answer…your medical records are extremely important, especially in this day of electronic records.  Those records contain your health history, your medications, your surgical history and prior hospitalizations.  Those records detail whether you have allergic reactions to certain types or kinds of medications. Those records provide your health care providers with information they need to know in order to treat you with competent and appropriate care.  Those records, if accurate, might save your life.

But not everyone’s medical records are accurate and we have seen hundreds of examples.  How about medical records which contain the wrong blood type…or records which fail to alert subsequent providers that you have a severe allergy to certain antibiotics (i.e., amoxicillin, ampicillin, or penicillin)?  A doctor or nurse who relies upon inaccurate medical records and administers a medication to which you have a known reaction can cause serious medical problems.  For example, the administration of those drugs can cause Anaphylactic Shock, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. The reaction can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.  How about medical records which indicate a patient had given birth twice…only she had never been pregnant! The problem with inaccurate medical records in the day of electronic medical records is magnified because the incorrect information is copied over and over into multiple providers’ records.

These problems result despite protections under the  Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which gives patients the right to request to see and get a copy of their health records and the right to correct health information. Under HIPAA, the record must also be provided at a reasonable cost, within 30 days of the request’s receipt, and in the requested format, if possible.

My Take:  Your medical records are yours…not the doctor’s not the hospital’s.  Request and review your records.  The cost, if produced electronically on a CD, should run less than $25.  When you make the request tell your provider you want everything in the record including nursing notes, admission histories and physicals, operative and procedure notes, consult notes, radiology and laboratory reports. If your doctor refuses to provide your records…maybe you need another doctor.

What you find in your records might shock you…and if you correct the record it might save your life.

Dan Frith

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at