Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Records Released Under The Ellis Hospital Label

I said awhile ago that when I die, my entire biography will be the words my family chisels on my tombstone. But I had forgotten that I have medical, educational and other kinds of records that say something about my life. I was reminded of that the other day when I went to Ellis Hospital to review some medical records. I had never reviewed any medical records before, particularly any relating to me. I was appalled at what I found.

But first let me tell you about the process of reviewing your records. While the law allows you to review and have copies of your records, obstacles are placed in your way, similar to those obstacles that people put in your way when you file a Freedom Of Information request.

To review your records, you first must fill out a form or send a letter to the hospital. The hospital will then call you to set up an appointment. Ellis Hospital only gives you one hour to review your records, whether this is legal or not I don’t know, but it is not always enough time to adequately review your records. If you want any copies of your records, the hospital charges 75 cents a page. If you want all of your records copied, your bill will be high because hospitals keep such voluminous records.

After you choose the pages you want copied, they go to someone in the hospital for review to make sure the hospital isn’t releasing information you aren’t supposed to have. For example if you have records in Ellis Hospital that came from Albany Med, Ellis can’t release them to you. You have to go to Albany Med for those records. If you have been in many hospitals, you will have to make many trips and spend a lot of money to obtain all of your medical records. After the person reviews the records and makes the copies, he or she calls you and you can pick up the copies or have them mailed to you, along with the bill of course.

What I found in the records I reviewed was not only the poor grammar and spelling so typical of educated people today, but information about myself that was completely inaccurate, sometimes to the point I can only call it prevarication.

Reviewing these records raised a lot of questions in my mind, not the least being about the ethics of people in the medical profession. But also questions such as if a person is writing a biography or historical book, are medical records considered primary or secondary sources? If they are considered primary documents, how can we be sure of their accuracy? If a person keeps his or her own record of their medical treatment, would that be given as much weight in a court of law as the medical record kept by medical professionals?

I advise people strongly to document their own medical treatment, whether your treatment is medical or psychological in nature. You can do it by writing things down right after each visit, or you can take a notebook with you to your visits. Be prepared for some flack if you take a notebook and pen with you when you go for any kind of treatment. I had a medical professional get very upset when I brought a notebook and pen to a meeting, even though the whole time she was talking to me, she was sitting there with a notebook and pen in her own lap. She finally saw the logic of my argument, that I had the same right to document the session as she did, and calmed down.

People who are fond of record keeping are fond of saying, “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” But of course we know that just because something is written down, that doesn’t mean it happened either. The only way to counteract inaccurate records about yourself is to make sure you are carefully making your own record at the same time
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In any event, I plan to review all of my medical and school records now, in order to learn more new things about myself that I didn’t know previously. It should prove interesting.

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