Lionel and Suzanne Simpson of Summerland were shocked to learn they must pay hundreds of dollars to access their own medical records.
The couple received a letter from Dr. Andrew Dargie that said he is leaving his Penticton practice on April 27 to pursue emergency medicine—only eight months after taking over for a retiring doctor.
The letter said patient medical records were transferred to a third-party file storage and management company—DOCUdavit Solutions Inc.- for safe keeping.
However, a letter from the Ontario-based business said the Simpsons must pay up to $124.40 each to retrieve their medical records.
“I think we should have been consulted about where our records are going,” Lionel Simpson said.
Lionel said the doctor’s office refused to give them their medical records directly and they were not consulted about the transfer.
“Now all of a sudden they’re sending them to Ontario without our knowledge or confirmation saying it’s okay and now our medical records are being held ransom,” Suzanne said.
“I just feel it’s wrong,” Lionel said.
By law, doctors in B.C. are required to keep medical records for a minimum of 16 years after they close their practices.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia said it’s standard practice to use a safe storage company.
“Many physicians choose to store their medical records with a safe storage company, and these companies do charge patients a fee to access copies of their records,” said a statement from the College.
“The College would expect physicians to communicate this decision to patients as early as they can to ensure patients are aware.”
The provincial health care plan does not cover the cost of transferring records, therefore resulting in fees to retrieve them.
DOCUdavit Solutions Inc marketing and sales director Sid Soil said doctors aren’t required to obtain permission from their patients as the records belong to the physicians.
The company also denied holding medical records hostage.
“We limit the fee to what we feel is a reasonable amount, however if there is a patient who can’t afford what we calculate as the cap, all they have to do is contact us and we will make arrangements to provide them their records for a fee that they can afford,” Soil said.
Dr. Dargie said he does not receive any money for using the service.
He said “a process that ensures safe and secure storage of charts, as well as, accessibility for timely transfer of those charts is in the best interest of patients.”
Read Dr. Andrew Dargie’s full statement to Global Okanagan here:
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a statement about a Doctor’s responsibility for patient charts. Doctors are considered to be the owners of their patient charts. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia obliges doctors who close their practise to provide for both safe and secure storage of charts for 16 years after last being seen, or from the age of majority, whichever is later. As well as ensuring that records are confidentially stored, doctors must also ensure that those records are accessible for transfer for years to come. The provincial healthcare plan does not cover the costs of transferring charts and the College acknowledges that it is appropriate to charge patients for this service.
“Docudavit will be responsible for the safe and secure storage, as well as the timely transfer of patient charts. That is why chart transfer fees are payable to Docudavit. I do not receive any money for this service.
“The College requires that the entire chart be transferred. For charts to be transferred electronically, Docudavit will upload any paper component of the chart to amalgamate it with recent electronic medical records. Docudavit has made it clear that no one will be denied access to their chart if they cannot afford to pay the fees. Sid Soil at Docudavit will be happy to speak to any further questions. His number is 1-888-781-9083 Ext 105.
“A process that ensures safe and secure storage of charts, as well as, accessibility for timely transfer of those charts is in the best interest of patients.”