A patient of a Halifax clinic is expressing concerns after learning she would not only be losing her family doctor, but would also have to pay hundreds of dollars to obtain her family’s medical records.
Cornelia Schneider was recently informed her longtime family doctor was closing the practice at the end of May.
Schneider has since received a letter from her doctor that states all patient medical records will be stored and managed by a company called DOCUdavit Solutions.
Her doctor has recommended that patients obtain a copy of the records, where the “maximum charge is $95.00 each for the first two patients and $65 for each additional patient, plus applicable taxes and shipping charges.”
Schneider didn’t want to share the name of her doctor, but said the clinic is located in north-end Halifax.
“Being already upset about losing our family doctor, we also ended up then learning about that we actually have to pay about $350 to actually get our records,” Schneider told Global News.
She said not only is she upset she’s being charged money for her own records, but she also feels as though her private information is being held “hostage.”
“In other countries, there’s universal health records systems,” she said.
“If I go to … a walk-in clinic, emergency room — because that’s probably what our first primary care access is going to be in the coming years — then they should have access to that.”
The policy concerning medical records is outlined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.
Their website indicates that physicians are “entitled to charge patients or third parties a fee” for obtaining their medical records. It adds that “the charge should reflect the cost of the materials used, the time required to prepare the materials, the cost of sending the materials, and the patient’s ability to pay.”
“I don’t know how they would assess if someone can pay or can’t pay,” said Schneider.
“Our practice is in the north end, I’m sure there are people that are patients there that have a way lower income than our family has — that cannot afford this and will just let it go.”
A guide prepared by Doctors Nova Scotia for physicians closing their practices says doctors must transfer records to a patient in a “timely manner” once requested. Physicians may charge a reasonable fee, but a “patient’s inability to pay should not prevent the transfer.”
Further, the guide says if a patient doesn’t request their records be transferred and cannot be contacted to advise of the closure, physicians must first attempt to transfer a copy to another physician at the same office and phone number.
“If this is not possible, the physician can arrange to have records transferred to a storage company,” the guide reads.
One Person One Record system
In February, the province announced it had entered into a 10-year agreement with Oracle Cerner, a health information technology company, to build and maintain the One Person One Record system.
The new clinical information system will replace or connect systems that health-care professionals use to view patient information.
According to a release from the province, “One Person One Record will add features over time, including the ability for patients to easily access their own medical records.”
Meanwhile, Schneider said she plans to ask her doctor for her medical records upfront during her next appointment.