Monday, October 17, 2011


and those of your FAMILY
and FRIENDS are
Sorry to be so dramatic, but I had to get your attention.  I have been worrying about this issue for years, and I yet have to see anyone in places of importance warn the average person of this terrible, terrible preventable problem!  So I am taking it upon myself to be the first as far as I know to sound the warning.

Here is the deal: 
When you visit a doctor's office, a hospital or any other interaction with the medical world, what is the first thing they have you do?  Take these forms and go sit over there and fill them out.  Right?  So you dutifully fill out a medical history that covers yourself or your kids etc. in great detail, including info on your parents etc. 

OK, now the medical provider has a "baseline" profile of information they could refer to if they wanted.  Of course if you suspect that they almost never read or look at your "history" you provided, you'd be right, but the point is, it's there and available to them.  They then start a "file" on you.  From then on, every time you interact with them, some kind of record is put in your "file".  When did you visit them and why.  What did they do in response.  How much you were billed.  Did you pay.  What meds you were prescribed.  

Did you have any procedures or tests and what were the results.  Diagnosis (what they think is wrong with you), Prognosis (how they think it might turn out in the long run) the actual results after everything was tried.  It might contain your allergies, medicines you need to avoid that could be fatal to you, if might be the only record of specialized surgery or tests or conditions.  It might contain files from other doctors or facilities, etc.  You may not be aware of it, but you have the right to see your file, and ask for a copy.  They have the right to charge you for it, and nothing forces them to make sure you see all of it.

Do you know how long your Doctor keeps those records?  How about the hospitals you've used?  Paramedics?  Ambulance services?  Specialists?  Clinics? Medical supply providers?  Pharmacies?  The place you were born?   What?  You don't know how long?  Do you mean to tell me you have NEVER ASKED THEM?

If you HAD asked them, you would have found out that the general accepted practice among all health providers is to keep patient records no longer than SEVEN YEARS.  Some keep them less, a very rare few perhaps a little longer, but for the most part, if it's been seven years since your file was started, anything in it older than that IS GONE.  Destroyed.  Discarded.  Dumped.  Gotten Rid Of.  Cleaned Out.
And that is at places you STILL HAVE AN ACTIVE RECORD WITH.

If the medical provider  has not seen you for over a year, you have not called, etc.  They may toss your file altogether if you don't owe them any money.  Old account, Inactive account, they clean it out, gone. 

Even if an old health provider such as the bone doctor who treated your crippled child twenty years ago and helped them to walk again... and now your kid is 21 and wants to join the military or needs the medical records of what was wrong with them, what was done, etc.  

You find out the doctor is either dead, or retired, and even though there might still be a clinic with same name, your original doctor left, and all records of his or her patients were purged.  Gone.  Seven years and tossed.  No requirement to warn you in any way.  They even transferred the boxes and boxes of records to the new doctor who bought the clinic name fifteen years ago, so you had two years after the old doctor retired you could have gone and asked for a full copy of your records.  But you didn't.  You never thought about it.  You thought they'd always be there, didn't you?  NO NO Dear Heart. WRONG!

OK, so now you know the dirty little secret that NOBODY has talked about, EVER!  All the records, of everything that ever had to do with YOUR health, your KIDS health, etc., things that could SAVE YOUR LIFE NOW, or things that could make the difference between you getting to collect Disability from Social Security or NOT, those records are ALL GONE NOW.  All because YOU DIDN'T MAKE THE EFFORT to ASK FOR COPIES from your health care providers, within the deadlines that provider had for purging the files.

You are Not DUMB.  If you had KNOWN about this, you WOULD have asked for full copies of the medical records for you, your spouse, your kids.  For instance, you would have made a rule to ask for full copies once a year, or once every three years, or whatever, or whenever provider quit, died, retired, closed etc.  So that you NEVER would have lost this super valuable lifesaving information.  Yes you might have had to pay to have them duplicated.  Small price to pay.

OK, now that you KNOW that all your precious medical past is GONE, what should you do?  FIRST, contact every medical provider you have dealt with EVER and ask them how long they retained records?  Ask how to request a full copy of your records.  Medical Information, not just accounting/billing records. Where do you go, who do you see, is there a form to fill out, is there a cost, etc.  

Who still has any records on you.  Go back as far as they have kept them.
At least you can stop any further loss of the past data.  Do this for each of your kids too.  The hospital where they were born may no longer have those records.  But get what you can.  Some older hospitals that have been around a long time and still exist, transferred old records onto microfilm back in the day.  If they did, there is a small chance you could put in a records search request for that hospitals Records Office to search the old microfilm.  Worth a try if something important is on the line.

Some types of files, such as XRay film, the films from MRI's and CAT Scans etc., hospitals and clinics will say they cannot give you copies or even release them to you.  There is an easy way to deal with that.  Have your current MD "request" copies from them to be sent to him or her.  That they will do.  Then either ask your MD for copies, or be sure he or she transfers the copies they have to any new doctor you get.

Some day, they will desperately need the medical information and records from the time they were born and all through growing up, and unless you requested full copies from each doctor and hospital etc. every few years, you have NOTHING to show them.  PLUS, all those times you had to fill out medical histories?  You racked your brain to think of when did Aunt Gertrude  die and was it diabetes? Stroke?  Heart disease?  And what year was that you had surgery for xyz?  And when did what kids have what ailment?

You might have had to call people to gather it all, ask relatives, etc.  And when you were done you "whewed" a sigh of relief thinking "thank God! I'll never have to assemble that again!"  Only now you find out that doctor office disposed of those old records years ago and now the people to ask are all dead or gone and you can't remember things like you used to so you end up guessing on things that have a major impact on your kids lives.  Good going!

It's very sad that none of the Medical Providers warn you about this.  None of the Talk Show hosts, the Oprahs, the Dr. Oz, etc. have ever warned you.  But your WHOLE LIFE, you AND your parents should have been collecting your medical records right along, every couple years.  By now you should have a huge file of them with records about everything that ever happened to you, at least the important stuff.

Some people believe that BIG BROTHER has been "watching" them their whole lives, and that somewhere there is a database chock full of every medical tidbit about you, that Insurance companies can access to "catch you" cheating when applying for insurance.  Lying about your medical past.  

Well the bad news is there is no ACCURATE and COMPLETE centralized database of medical records about all Americans.  Obama wants that, but half the country says NO! That's Communism!  But the point is, no such thing is going to save you.
More bad news is that there IS a central database that Insurance companies maintain jointly, used to deny you coverage or payment.  They DO purchase records from doctors offices all over the country, and they do compile information on their insureds, and they share it with each other.

  That's what the fine print meant when it said that if you want your insurance company to pay for this medical thing, you agree for them to store your information... AND make it AVAILABLE to "other providers" as deemed necessary.  This means ratting you out to other insurance companies you may want to switch to.  The problem is this data is very limited and is not organized in a way to be helpful to you if you are having a family or personal health emergency and you need information fast.

Well... it's SPILT MILK.  No use crying over it now.
If you desperately needed that information, and now you find out it's gone,
I am truly sorry.  Nobody told me, I found out the hard way when I could not prove I was born with birth defects (no hip sockets).  The hospital where I was born, torn down, records looong gone.  The doctors who operated on me, all dead and long gone.  The clinics that helped me to get to the point where I could finally walk at five years old, all closed, gone, records LONG gone, nobody left, no way to get any proof at all.  I endured a year of full body cast as a toddler, three years of full leg braces totally immobilizing me.

Countless XRays, Exams, Procedures, Surgeries, teams of Osteopaths, I even was provided special shoes each year until I was sixteen by the Missouri Crippled Children's Asssociation.  LONG GONE.  Nobody even remembers them,  No records.  I then tried to find any of the MD's I've had growing up and through most of my adulthood.  Dead.  Gone.  Retired.  Quit.  Records dumped long ago.  Should have requested a copy.  The few I found still practicing, sold their practice, left the records, which were then dumped.  Switched companies, new company didn't keep old ones records.  Etc. Etc.

I even tried to see if I could get records from that insurance company repository.  John Q. Public has no access to it and they really don't want you even knowing it exists.
  So.... I cannot prove anything that ever happened to me medically except for the last five years, since I discovered all this.  I missed out on receiving full disability because I could not prove I was born crippled and it was the doctors prognosis back then that I'd only be able to walk for X number of years then my hips and knees would be shot and I'd wind up crippled again.  The government doctor says he disagrees, and without their records and xrays etc.  all the government could do was listen to their Doc whose job it is to keep people from getting disability.

Don't let something like this happen to you, or your kids.  Start a Family Tradition right now, and teach your kids too, drum it into them.  Once a year, they must submit a request in writing to each and every medical provider who they have interacted with.  Asking for a full copy of all associated medical records, as is their right by law.  Make sure you follow thru and get the records, and store them in a safe place, and pass them on to your children.  Make sure they get copies of your records and family history, they will need it some day.  You owe it to them and yourself.  And if you REALLY want to be helpful, write down every health thing you can remember about all their family tree, too.  When did relatives die, of what?  How old were they? Etc.  Can help with genetic disorders.

Good Luck, at least Better Luck than I had.

Copyright 2011 VROUK

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