A Cancer Patient’s Burden: Accessing Medical Records
One might think that a system claiming to provide “healthcare,” would provide both health solutions and care to its clients. While individual doctors and nurses care deeply about patient wellbeing, the larger health care system often does not. The system is broken.
This lack of care places an undue healthcare burden on cancer patients. The financial aspect is most prevalent, but time, education, and access also play vital roles. As patients attempt to select the best treatment plan, numerous challenges may arise. One obstacle, accessing medical information, seems like it should be a simple task, but often, it is not.
What you may not realize about medical records and the healthcare burden on cancer patients
In 1996, Congress passed HIPAA into law, protecting patients’ privacy and reaffirming the rights of patients to obtain their personal medical records. But twenty-five years later, it can still be a struggle for patients to accomplish this. From complex systems to high costs and long wait times, obtaining medical records can be anything but easy.
Consistency in processes could help patients immensely, but unfortunately, the world of medical records is not consistent. Offices, hospitals, clinics, and radiologists all have different systems in place. Some might need in-person signatures, and others are fine with electric. Some might have small fees associated, while other fees can be quite large. Some might easily send records electronically, and others might hesitate at this or not even have the capability.
These inconsistencies carry over to how long it can take to obtain the records. Depending on the size of the intuition and their electronic system, it could take days to get the records sent to the desired location. Different kinds of records might require different processes too; images and scans might differ from doctor notes or admissions paperwork.
Ultimately, managing patient records does not help the profitability for healthcare providers, so it is not at the top of the priority list.
Making a Treatment Decision
This broken system will not be fixed quickly, but time is of the essence in planning for treatment, particularly for breast cancer patients. Knowing about the obstacles in obtaining medical records can help expedite the process of choosing the best treatment plan.
Starting treatment as soon as possible is the goal, but even before that step, patients must select the correct one. At this stage in the process, patients can really begin to feel the burden that comes from the absence of care in the larger health system. Patients might want to hear from other doctors about options and timelines. Getting a second opinion is a good practice for many individuals. The second doctor will need their own diagnosis information, either in the form of new scans and images or receiving the previous medical records from the first doctor. New rounds of tests can be costly and even dangerous for the patient, so the best option would be to use data that has already been collected. Access to these records is also essential if a patient wants to be considered for a clinical trial. The trial managers need the detailed information that medical records provide. A delay in supplying these records when applying for a clinical trial might result in missing a life-saving opportunity.
While in a state of stress, fatigue, and uncertainty, patients don’t need one more challenge to deal with. It should be as easy as picking up the phone, calling the office, and asking to transfer records to another doctor, but it clearly isn’t.
Support with Medical Records
A few agencies in the healthcare industry are working to help ease the healthcare burden on cancer patients regarding medical records; one of those is Ciitizen. By relying on the experts in this area, patients can access second opinions more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Ciitizen also makes it easier for patients to find clinical trials that might be good fits. Clarity on medical records can make all the difference in these situations.
Many patients do not realize the importance of possessing their records to make informed decisions about their treatment. Unfortunately, in an industry tilted toward profits and away from easing healthcare burdens on cancer patients, this challenge can feel insurmountable. Partners like Ciitizen are there to help patients with their medical records and put the care back into healthcare.
Ciitizen is a free service that helps patients get more out of their health records. Our platform enables patients to find better treatment options and gives them the opportunity to advance the research for cures. Ready to control all of your medical records in one place? Sign up today in less than 5 minutes!