Thursday, September 29, 2005
Getting old records may be difficult, costly

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital,
Medical director

Patients change doctors for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the patient moves. Sometimes, the physician retires. Sometimes, the insurance company requires the change. Whenever such a change occurs, the patient has to see a new physician. The new physician needs to know a lot of information about the patient. Much of that information has been gathered over a period of years. For that reason a copy of the old medical record is a good idea. In order to get a copy of that old record, a request must go to the original physician. Because of concerns about privacy, the request must be signed by the patient himself/herself. This sometimes creates problems. A spouse might want to obtain copies of the records. An adult child may want to obtain copies of the records. There may be good reasons for those requests. However, by law, the patient must sign the request. There is an exception. If an individual has been officially appointed as a guardian for the patient, he/she can sign the request. Even in those circumstances, a copy of the official appointment document is necessary. We cannot take the spouse of child's word of it. This sometimes creates a situation in which the family member gets upset with the physician. However, the patient has a right to keep his/her information private. If he/she does not want the family member to have the information, then we have to honor that desire. The only way to make sure the request is legitimate is to have the appropriate documentation. A second issue that some times arises is related to the cost of getting a record copy. Some records are large and take a long time for an office staff member to copy them. For that reason, a charge for the copying of the record is reasonable. The state includes this charge as a legitimate one in the Medical Practices Act. The act indicates that the physician can legally charge a patient "reasonable expenses" for the copy. Reasonable expenses would depend on the size of the record. A thin record should not take much time to copy and the charge should be lower than it would be for a larger record. In any case the maximum charge is capped at $25. A physician cannot charge more than that for a copy of the record. It would be in violation of the state law. If patients feel that they cannot afford the $25, there is an alternative portion of the law. It indicates that the previous physician can write a "summary of the patient's record" at no charge to the patient. There is a catch to this. It requires an agreement that the previous physician is willing to do the summary and the new physician is willing to accept that summary. Summaries are never as complete as the entire record. For that reason, the $25 might be well worth it to have a copy of the entire record sent to the new physician. It is important for patients to realize that they can have their old records sent to a new physician. However, they need to realize that it requires the proper privacy procedures followed for permission. They also need to realize that there may be an associated fee.

Nanticoke to give flu shots Oct. 25 and 27
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be offering flu shots to the public on Tuesday, Oct. 25 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Thursday, Oct. 27 (3 to 7p.m.). The shots will be given in the hospital's building on Stein Highway , located in the former PK complex, next to County Bank. There will be 500 doses per day allotted. The cost of the vaccination will be $10. The vaccine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18. The influenza vaccine is recommended for elderly and high-risk individuals. Healthy working adults may also benefit from the influenza. Large outbreaks of influenza usually do not occur before December in the USA and reach a peak between late December and early March and many continue into the spring. The duration of protection conferred by influenza vaccine generally begins one to two weeks after injection and may last six months or longer. For additional information contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, extension 8784. No appointment or pre-registration is required.