LA CRESCENTA, Calif. -- Not having hard copies of medical records
on Jan. 1,000, could have dire consequences for people with serious
medical problems, says Vincent M. Riccardi, M.D., a clinician and
president of American Medical Consumers, a patient advocacy group.
Riccardi says the risk is greatest for patients who have a
medical condition that is changing or is potentially unstable, such
as those facing complicated surgery; those with a serious medical
condition such as heart disease or cancer; women with high-risk
pregnancies; and people undergoing long-term treatment, such as
If medical records that are stored or processed on a computer
cannot be accessed, the health care of these patients can be
threatened, Riccardi said.
The solution is simple, he said. Get hard copies of medical
records now. This is not necessary for all patients, he adds, just
those higher-risk patients.
Riccardi suggests the following tips for determining if you need
to get hard copies of your medical records:
- How is your health? If it is changing, or unstable, ask your
doctor if there is anything special you need to do to prepare for
Y2K, such as obtaining medical records. If your doctor agrees your
condition is serious enough to obtain all your medical records,
start to request your records from hospitals or other institutions
that have computerized records. You will not need to obtain medical
records from your doctor since clinics and doctors' offices rely on
hard copy records.
- Know which records you need to get copies of, specifically
those that are stored in or processed by computers. The most
important are institutional records, including hospital patient
records, surgical center records and radiology and laboratory
- Identify the most recent hospital where treatment was
administered; most often it will have records that contain details
of your past treatment(s).
- Write a letter to the hospital's medical records department
requesting copies of specific types of records. You can also visit
the department in person or request the documents through your
- Make sure that you forward a copy of all records you gather to
your personal physician. He or she may not have all of them.
- Secure copies of all records in a safe place at home.
- Begin requesting copies of current and future medical records
on a routine basis.
- Begin generating your own personal medical records -- in the
form of a diary or journal, for example.
'This is not doomsday advice,' Riccardi said. 'But why wait
until January and then realize you have a problem? The solution is
so simple -- get all your records beforehand.'
Vincent M. Riccardi, M.D., M.B.A., clinician and president of the
American Medical Consumers, La Crescenta, Calif.,
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