Our Blog

Ohio bill threatens to give hospitals power to designate medical records

medical recordsWhether you’re switching to a new doctor or concerned about the care you or a loved one received, complete and accurate medical records play a crucial role in the health care process.

A new definition of these files, proposed by House Bill 172, threatens to give hospitals the power to decide what is, or is not, considered a medical record when a patient’s information is requested. The move could limit patients’ access to their own medical records and present new challenges in legal battles to hold medical providers accountable for negligence and malpractice.

Under current law, medical records are defined as “data in any form that pertains to a patient’s medical history, diagnosis, prognosis, or medical condition that is generated and maintained by a health care provider in the process of the patient’s health care treatment.” The modified section of Ohio’s Revised Code would define medical records as data “designated by a health care provider as the record of the patient’s clinical care.”

Ohio Association of Justice (OAJ) opposes the changes, and Megan Frantz Oldham recently testified to the House Health Committee on the organization’s behalf about the consequences of approving the bill as written. In addition to creating inconsistencies with federal law and negative impacts on patients’ future care, House Bill 172 would also prevent injured patients from taking legal action against the responsible providers.

While the bill wouldn’t limit information produced for reasons related to litigation, patients typically need their full medical record to determine if there is an actionable claim before litigation can be initiated.

As detailed in Frantz Oldham’s testimony, the revised definition would give medical providers “the green light” to label files revealing medical errors as nonmedical records and destroy or refuse to provide them to the patient or patient’s representatives when the claim is under review. The lack of access could even encourage an increasing number of lawsuits naming more doctors as defendants in “a shotgun approach” to get any missing records and cover all bases.

Read Frantz Oldham’s testimony about the consequences of House Bill 172

Entrusting providers with complete control over access to important medical information would be a step back in the push for greater transparency and a threat to the health and well-being of patients across the state.

How would you feel about medical providers having the power to decide which records you can access? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments.