Paper Tiger

Calendar Icon March 7, 2019
Reading Time Icon Read Time: 2 min
By Ciitizen

Over the past few weeks we’ve detailed some of the more frustrating issues faced by our data retrieval team when following up on patient medical records requests.

The goal of each story was to illuminate, in detail, just how aggravating it can be for someone in dire need of their health data to obtain the information to which they have a legal right under HIPAA. However, for today’s blog post about a patient’s right to request a digital copy of their record instead of paper printouts, we’re not going to beat around the bush.

The cold, hard facts are more than enough to illustrate our irritation.

As Deven pointed out on Tuesday, HIPAA requires an institution to provide patients with their records in an electronic format if the data is available as such.

In the rare instance that a hospital is still using 100% paper records, the institution must still provide the patient with a digital scan if they’re capable. One would assume that if a hospital is capable of performing a CT scan to create cross-sectional images of the bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues in the human body, it would be also capable of feeding a piece of paper into a piece of plastic. Below are a few anecdotes that highlight the difficulties of this digital struggle, taken from our recent experiences here at Ciitizen:

The raison d’etre of Ciitizen is to provide patients with a digital profile of their complete health history because medical records are far easier to search and share when they’re in a digital format.

Rather than spend forty-five minutes digging through binders of paper printouts, an oncologist can quickly access the digital information he or she needs to plan treatment, and the patient can easily send that data out for second and third opinions.

There’s no debate: information moves faster and is easier to manage when it’s in a digital format. Yet, despite HIPAA’s requirement that health institutions provide patients with at least a PDF or an electronic scan of paper records, we’re still getting giant paper envelopes on our doorstep (and often these giant paper envelopes are clearly digital printouts!).

Cancer patients — actually, all patients — deserve better. -Lisa Taylor

Originally published at on March 7, 2019.

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