I finally got a written response from the Department of Health & Human Services, Office for Civil Rights. They wanted to let me know that they are in the process of reviewing my complaint to decide if the OCR has authority and is able to act on my complaint. They dutifully notified me my complaint is open to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. Wonder what fancy FBI database I’ll end up in now.
I think it took so long because my e-mailed complaint had to be printed out in DC and then physically mailed to the Chicago office. (I’m guessing) The wheels of justice go slowly in the States – especially since they’re covered in adhesive cellophane of the crimson variety.
Still no word on the HIPAA complaint I filed. I may re-file the complaint with the regional office in Chicago rather than e-mailing it to the national office. I’ll certainly update everyone when I find out what is happening.
After reviewing my files, I realized that I had certain dates wrong in my head. My migraines weren’t diagnosed until 2003 and I’ve been on blood pressure medications since 1999. The doctors office kept copies every time they got a fax note from me and whenever I had a prescription refilled. Kind of scary to see how often I called that quack.
What I’ve learned so far is that memory doesn’t serve me as well as I thought. Keeping a timeline written down somewhere is your best plan. You may think you will remember a significant event forever, when in fact, you start to forget when it doesn’t continue to be an ultra-relevant fact any more.
Leads me to believe that my idea for a migraine diary application for a mobile phone makes more sense every day. I think I might actually make it my final project for my software engineering degree.
A couple of weeks ago I started to think about the various conditions I’ve had treated over the years. I was trying to place when I first discovered or had something treated with significant events in my life. I found that I couldn’t reliably remember the point in time when I, for example, went to the doctor the first time about my migraines or when I had a hiatal hernia episode. At that point, I decided I needed to obtain my medical records from the various physicians and facilities I’ve been at to fill in the picture I needed.
I contacted the hospital of the ER I went to when I first had a hiatal hernia attack to see what the diagnosis went. Apparently the records from 1997 were too old and not available. I then contacted my internist to get the results of my EGD so I could see the exact result of the test. I found out that he didn’t give me all of the results after I had the procedure. The last stop in my quest for medical records was with the last family doctor I had before my current.
Calling on a Monday to a doctor’s office is asking for trouble, and I knew it. I sat on hold for nearly twenty minutes but kept calm about it. When I finally got to speak to the receiptionist, I gave her my name and said I needed a full copy of my medical records. She seemed thrown off asking me what doctor to send them too. Explaining that I am compiling a set of medical records myself, she seemed to understand. All the while I’m thinking to myself – who fucking cares – I’m asking for my shit so give it to me! Anyway, she never verified my date of birth, address, got a phone number – was told just to pick them up Thursday.
Thursday came, and even though I was told I shouldn’t call in to make sure they’re ready, I did. Big surprise, she totally forgot. [Starting to see why I left the dump?] She apologized and said that they’ll be ready by Monday. I stopped in Monday night to get the papers and walked in with my duct tape wallet, ready to retrieve my ID. I waited a few minutes to be recognized by the wait staff and then gave her my name and said I was here to pick up a copy of medical records. She walked in the back and grabbed a manila envelope, handing it to me. I asked her if she needed to see my ID at all. Her response? Nah, not really.
I left, happy to get my records and started on my way home. Mulling over the events unfolding to this day of medical enlightenment, I realized that medical office is a pile of completely unorganized dog shit. When I got home, I looked up HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and promptly filed a complaint against the office. Medical records are supposed to be closely guarded and are protected by a ton of laws. She never established that I was authorized to obtain my medical records nor did she verify my identity upon picking them up! Scary stuff. I really hope they get in trouble.
And we wonder how identity theft starts.