At my most recent doctor’s appointment, something just seemed off. I was struggling through a bad cold and not thinking clearly, so it didn’t occur to me to ask more questions in the moment. But after I left the office, I found myself thinking, why didn’t he ask me about any of my conditions or symptoms? Why did he ask about specific symptoms I have no history of? When I asked why I needed to come back in six months for another visit, why did he say that he likes to see patients with conditions like depression or headaches more often? (I have no history of either.)
As you can probably imagine, I was frustrated to see such glaring mistakes and inaccuracies in my chart. What if I wind up in the ER, unable to communicate my medical history to the attending physician? God forbid they treat me according to the (mis)information in my chart and potentially cause serious harm. It may sound unlikely, but this happens more than you’d expect.
Luckily, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives you the right to correct errors in your medical record. While the process for doing so varies from one provider to another, your physician must allow you to request an amendment to your record. They can accept or deny your request, but they must include a record of your request in your file even if it’s denied. For more information about this process and tips for reviewing your records, click here.
While this experience has been an unwanted hassle, I’m even more convinced that my research on health literacy (as part of my master’s thesis) is needed now more than ever. Doctors are humans, and we all make mistakes. But by empowering those with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities to hold physicians accountable, maybe we can prevent medical mistakes from harming more patients in the future.
Have you had a similar experience? I would love to hear your story. Tell me in the comments or contact me here.