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Healthy Insurance Part Four: Keep Your Records Straight

March 23, 2010

There are a lot of things that I’m really good at. Anything involving paperwork, bookkeeping and organization is not amongst them. Thank goodness that in this fancy day of gee-whiz technology, all my medical records are stored in the big computer nerve-center and can be pulled up with the push of a button.

Or not.

As you know by now, I was in a car accident a year ago, and only found out a month ago that I have a badly broken neck. This has led to the obvious question: why didn’t the x-rays catch this a year ago?

I can’t answer that question because I’m not a radiologist, and I haven’t even seen the x-rays. They were taken, someone looked at them and sent a report to my doctor. My doctor didn’t even see the actual x-rays. He read the report, and faxed it over to my Physical Therapist and Massage guy so that they could design a treatment plan. I didn’t question this, I figured they know what they’re doing. I also didn’t ask for a copy of the x-rays because the last thing in the world I need is more clutter in my house.

But now, I would like to know why no one caught the broken neck a year ago. So would my lawyer. So imagine my surprise when I got an email from my lawyer stating that there is no record that I ever had x-rays taken, and no report stating that nothing is wrong with my neck. Every other piece of information on me is there, these are missing.

I called the clinic that is handling all my treatments and they confirmed that there were no records of my ever having had x-rays, and no report on file. Puh-leez.

I called my Physical Therapist, got a copy of the report that I knew perfectly well existed. I then called the clinic back and said, “I have a copy of the report right here, here is what it says, here’s when and where and by whom it was issued, please check your records again. I will be there in an hour to pick up the original report and a copy of the images.”

“Please hold Ms. Royse, let me see what I can figure out.”

Needless to say, my record magically re-appeared. I don’t know if they were trying to pull something on me or if it was an honest mistake. I do know that having a copy of my records at my fingertips made all the difference. So here are your marching orders for today:

1. Get a copy of all your records. Every doctor’s appointment, x-ray, blood test etc…. Have them print out a copy at the time of service. File it away so that you have it if you need it.

2. If they want to charge you money for x-rays, MRI’s, CT Scans and the like, have your primary care physician order copies, they will generally give them to doctors for free, and your doctor will generally give you copies. I know that Harborview, who did my MRI and CT Scan wanted to charge me $100, to get copies of the images. But they gave them to my doctor.

3. I know this is old advice, but it’s advice I wish I had taken. Get a second opinion. If I had gotten a copy of my x-rays and taken them to someone else to read, it is possible they would have caught the break. Or have told me that I should get further testing because there were things that were unclear. Yes, it’s only a possibility, not a guarantee, but in the crazy gamble that is our healthcare system, it’s best to stack the odds in your favor.

And on that note, I’m going to go pick up the pretty pictures, and take them to someone else to read. I’m willing to believe that it was an innocent mistake, but I’d like to make sure.

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