HAVE YOU EVER URGENTLY NEEDED MEDICAL RECORDS BUT WERE UNABLE TO OBTAIN THEM?
If you have been involved in a workers compensation case or a personal injury case you may be aware of how difficult this seemingly easy task may be. Law firms, patients, and other medical providers often have a difficult time obtaining medical records in a reasonable and timely fashion.
Those who have been unfortunate enough to be injured on the job know the frustration when it comes to obtaining important medical records. Continuity of treatment can be delayed weeks and legal proceeding months before any type of closure can be obtained. Most problematic is that the injured party who is seeking medical treatment is stuck to endure the pain even longer and in some cases any progress in recovery they have made is forfeited due to the gap in medical treatment.
Maryland law currently provides statutory requirements for medical providers that they must follow when responding to a medical records request. The Health General Article, Section 4-309 provides “if a health care provider knowingly refuses to disclose a medical record within a reasonable time but no later than 21 workings days after a person in interest requests the disclosure, the health care provider is liable for actual damages.” At first read this may seem like a fairly cut and dry law and there should be no issues in obtaining medical records within 21 days. The reality is that quite rarely do I, as a practicing attorney, receive medical records within 21 days.
I would attribute the delayed response to a number of factors. First our system and the medical providers are just not suited to respond to these request in a timely fashion. It some circumstances there is a lack of resources, other times a lack of priority, and other times the volume of medical records and age of the medical records make it nearly impossible to respond timely. The Section 4-309 lacks the proverbial teeth needed to pressure medical providers in to complying with the law. At second read you will notice that the article states “knowingly refuses to disclose.” This is a fairly high burden to prove as it would require the person requesting the records to show the provider had actual knowledge and refused to respond. Further, the threat of “actual damages” is simply not going to arise in the ordinary scenario. Section 4-309 can be liken to a little chihuahua snarling at a passerby. Even if you are bit by the dog there will be no injury incurred.
THE GOOD NEWS is that medical providers, hospitals, and health groups have partnered up with the help of the current presidential administration and they will be working on the availability of medical records. See the WBAL news article. Today many providers use electronic filing systems which assist in quick printing and easy access to the provider. The next step is to provide easy access to the patient so that he or she can provide medical records to their provider and assist in the continuity of treatment.