Don't Let Nursing Homes Withhold Your Medical Records - Patients and Families Have a Right to Review

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STOP EA nursing home attorneys begin new campaign to warn consumers that elder abuse and neglect can go undetected or when nursing homes are allowed to withhold patient health records. Falsification of nursing home records a concern when facilities deny access to those with a clear, established right to review.

STOP EA - Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect Attorneys

We want to make sure the public is aware of this type of information because evaluating a patient's medical chart is a good way to keep track of the care your loved one is receiving.

STOP EA (elder abuse) has launched a new campaign to remind patients in nursing homes and their families that they have a right to view their medical records – including inspecting, copying and allowing authorized third-parties access to them. Families also have the right to do the same for a deceased loved one’s records.

Significant problems arise, however, when nursing homes deny access to individuals with a clearly established right to the records. This conduct facilitates falsification of records and often is an attempt to dissuade families from fighting to see what happened to their loved one.

This struggle has been chronicled for years. On April 29, 2008, the USA Today wrote about the problem that exists at hospitals in an article by Robert Davis entitled, "Patients often struggle for access to medical records." More recently, on September 18, 2011, the Sacramento Bee published an article detailing the risk of record falsification: "Falsified patient records are untold story of California nursing home care." In that article, STOP EA attorney Ed Dudensing called the falsification of records, "Extremely prevalent."

The law in this area, however, is clear and favors the consumer's access to their records. After a written or oral request is sent, the facility has 24 hours (not counting holidays or weekends) to allow inspection of health and/or financial medical records.

For copies of medical records, facilities have up to two business days to get copies to the requestor at a rate no greater than $0.25 per page copied, and no greater than $0.50 per page copied from microfilm. There may be associated clerical fees as well.

“We want to make sure the public is aware of this type of information because evaluating a patient's medical chart is a good way to keep track of the care your loved one is receiving,” said Sean Laird, a Sacramento STOP EA elder abuse attorney.

Third-party members that are authorized to view a resident’s records also have rights. The California Health and Safety Code states that the representative of a resident may be a:
    A) Parent or guardian of minor resident.
    B) Conservator of an adult resident.
    C) Power of Attorney agent for the resident’s health decisions.
    D) A beneficiary of a will, trust or inheritance.

For residents to authorize a third-party, usually a signed release form is all that is required. Third-parties have the right to review the resident’s records within 24 business hours (excluding holidays and weekends) and have the same financial costs to copies as stated above.

The beneficiary or heir of a deceased patient has the right to access the deceased patient's medical records. A beneficiary is one who has inherited the deceased one’s estate, property or is an heir.

“Oftentimes, a nursing home will give excuses and not release the records within a two-business-day period,” Jay Renneisen, a STOP EA attorney said. “This is in violation of the law. If they flat-out deny the resident or the rightful third-parties involved access to the records, that is also breaking the law.”

If you have faced hurdles receiving medical records in a nursing home, contact Stop EA by calling 1-866-864-1800 or visiting stopea.org.

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Jay Renneisen
Stop EA
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