Who Owns Patient’s Medical Records?

Jihad Hussami, Platform Leader – EMA, BD

Say you go to a general practitioner for a routine checkup; upon finishing all exams and tests you receive a complete copy of the doctor’s notes, test results and the medical record of the visit. Does this sound like a good practice where the patient knows his or her results fully as well as the doctor’s opinions and suggestions? If you answered yes then you’d be in the majority who answered this way. Regardless whether the patient is in the GCC or in Brazil, patients would like to feel they have more control of their records. However there are many questions in the industry that surround patient records and the answers are not always black or white.

Let’s give another example, say a patient goes in for a psychiatric appointment or maybe to seek help for substance abuse. There are opinions the doctor will put in the medical record which the patient might react adversely to. This could potential lead the patient to act in an uneducated manner and alter the recommended treatment path as they feel the record is theirs to interpret and judge.\

So the question being raised now is how much access does the patient get to the medical record. This is assuming of course that we’re going with the industry standard which states the healthcare provider owns the medical record to begin with. Often so, a specialist facility will not have the record from the general practitioner and vice versa, this solidifies the case for the patient owning their medical record that they can take with them wherever they go. There’s a risk for misplacing the medical record which contains both private information and vital information showing treatment history.

There’s a big push now for electronic health records (EHRs) and cloud-based patient portals which different practitioners and healthcare facilities can upload medical records to. This is a great tool no doubt, again begs the question whether the patient should have access to it. If so, how much access exactly? In this age of personal information at your fingertips, is having full access to medical records going to help patients look after themselves better, or put them at risk? If it puts them at risk then does this mean it puts the doctor at risk of litigation? Perhaps patient medical records will always be owned by the healthcare provider, the question is how to strike that right balance of sharing.

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