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How Can Patients Get Medical Records from a Closed Medical Practice?

By GRACE CORDOVANO, DEVEN McGRAW, and AARON MIRI

The HIPAA Privacy Rule gives patients the right to copies of their medical records, with rare exceptions. When patients need a copy of their medical records, most start the process by calling their doctor’s office and asking for how to get access. The receptionist or office staff point them in the right direction, whether it’s instructing them to write down their request and sending it to the office, pointing them to contact the medical records or radiology department (if the practice is large enough), or assisting them in setting up their patient portal, if the practice is using an electronic health record (EHR). Being able to connect with a person inside the four walls of medicine is often crucial for many patients and their carepartners who may be unsure of exactly how to request their records.

But what happens to those records when a doctor closes or leaves the practice?

Independent practices close for a variety of reasons. Physicians may merge with a large practice or health system, retire, they may sell or close their practice for personal reasons, they may file for bankruptcy, or they may get sick and die. The COVID19 pandemic has had devastating financial consequences on many small, independent, and rural practices, leading to their consequent closure, acquisition, or merger.

What should patients do when their doctor’s office closes, and they need a copy of their medical records? This is especially challenging when a doctor may not have had an EHR, as is the case with many independent practices as well as more rural settings. On September 26, 2020, a tweet from Cait DesRoches, Executive Director of OpenNotes, inquired about how a family member may get access to medical records from her physican’s practice that closed, triggering a robust conversation that led to the realization that patients and families are not well informed in these circumstances.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

It can be much more difficult to get copies of records after a practice has closed. Patients should get copies of their medical records as they are generated instead of waiting until they’re needed. HIPAA Privacy Rule guidance states that individuals can get digital copies of digital information (or even digital copies of records kept on paper, as long as the practice has a scanner). Companies are developing tools and services that enable individuals and their care partners to collect, use, and store health records. Request digital (or paper, if that is preferred) copies of blood work, imaging, discharge instructions, and corresponding reports before you leave the practice.

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THCB Gang Episode 25 9/17

Joining Zoya Khan (@zoyak1594) on Episode 25 of “The THCB Gang” were regulars patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), policy & tech expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), data privacy expert Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy), and guest Rosemarie Day, Founder & CEO of Day Health Strategies (@Rosemarie_Day1). Rosemary’s book “Marching Towards Coverage” is out now. The conversation revolved around new health technology policies, Medicaid Expansion programs, the 2020 election, and the steps to get to universal health coverage. Oh, and you can take Rosemary’s quiz about what type of a health activist you are!

If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan

THCB Gang Episode 21

Episode 21 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, August 13th! Watch it below.

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) today are some of our regulars: policy & tech expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), MD turned leadership coach Maggi Cary (@MargaretCaryMD), patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), and Consumer advocate & CTO of Carium Health Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia). It was a great conversation surrounding the patients’ role in all the technology being deployed, how providers can work to close the gap in care, and whose duty is it really to ensure a person is “healthy”. Give it a listen below if you missed the live show

If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan

THCB Gang, Episode 19, July 23, 2020

This episode of the THCB Gang included regulars Grace Cordavano (@GraceCordovano) , Deven McGraw (@HealthPrivacy), Ian Morrison (@seccurve), and special guest patient entrepreneur Robin Farmanfarmaian (@Robinff3). We talked about patient experiences, the state of play in health care business, and about new technologies and more. And after tomorrow it gets preserved as a podcast on Itunes & Spotify Enjoy! – Matthew Holt

THCB Gang Episode 17, LIVE 7/9 1PM PT/4PM ET

Episode 17 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, July 9th! Watch it below!

Joining me were some of our regulars: patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker), WTF Health Host Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa), and guests: Tina Park, partner at Diagram (@diagramoffice) & Shannon Brownlee, Senior VP at the Lown Institute (@ShannonBrownlee). The conversation focused on asynchronous care, the gap between patients & technology, and the Supreme Court ruling on employers’ ability to limit women’s access to birth control coverage. It was a great and engaging conversation with some of the top health care experts in the field.

If you’d rather listen, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan

THCB Gang, Episode 13

Episode 13 of “The THCB Gang” was on Thursday, June 11th. Watch it below or on our YouTube Channel.

Matthew Holt (@boltyboy)was back on the moderating chair! Joining him were patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), patient safety expert Michael Millenson (MLMillenson), policy expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), MD & hospital system exec Raj Aggarwal (@docaggarwal), data privacy expert Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy) and fierce journalist & data rights activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey). This was a doozy, and the conversation ranged from what it’s like re-opening at a big academic medical center to data flow and public health in Taiwan to statues of Confederate losers in Richmond. Not to mention what will happen in the impeding second wave.

If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan

THCB Gang, Episode 10 LIVE 1PM PT/4 PM ET 5/21

Episode 10 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, May 21th

Joining me were regulars: writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), policy expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), radiologist Saurabh Jha (@RogueRad), employer consultant Brian Klepper (@bklepper1), Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy) and a guest, former ONC Consumer head Lygeia Riccardi, now at Carium Health (@Lygeia)! The conversation moved onto the new normal of telehealth, how much things would change in the future, and what the story with testing and opening up would look like. You can see the video below

If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Matthew Holt

THCB Gang: Episode 8 LIVE 1PM PT/4PM ET, 5/7

Episode 8 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, May 7th at 1pm PT- 4pm ET! You can see it below.

Joining me were our regulars: patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), data privacy lawyer Deven McGraw (@HealthPrivacy), policy expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), radiologist Saurabh Jha (@RogueRad) (who snuck in late), and writer Kim Bellard (@Kimbbellard). We had a great conversation including a lot of detail around access to patient records, and some fun about infectious disease epidemiologists behaving badly! If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels from Friday— Matthew Holt

THCB Gang: Episode 7

Episode 7 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, April 30th at 1pm PT- 4pm ET! You can see it below. If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Joining me were regulars futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), quality expert Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson), with guests Raj Aggarwal (@docaggarwal) head of innovation at Jefferson Health System, and our very own health tech “IT girl” Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa) from WTF Health. We had a great conversation about the present and future of care delivery and finance. — Matthew Holt

The THCB Gang: Episode 5

Episode 5 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed Thursday, April 16 at 1pm PT- 4pm ET! 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the sh*t about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It tries to be fun but serious and informative! If you miss it, it will also be preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy), Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), Grace Cordovano (@gracecordovano), Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson), and Dave deBronkhart (@ePatientDave) all discussed the recent news surrounding COVID-19, and their guesses on how it will impact the landscape of health care; from policy to practice — Matthew Holt

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