The Ohio Supreme Court is considering whether patients have the right to obtain their entire medical records when a provider decides to maintain some or all of the records in a location other than the provider’s “medical records” department.
Ohio law grants people the right to access their own medical records that are kept by a health care provider. Unlike federal law, the Ohio law allows a patient to bring an action against a provider for failure to provide a copy of the patient’s medical record. After a patient died while in Aultman Hospital’s care, his legal representative sought a copy of the patient’s complete medical record. The hospital provided only the medical records in its on-site medical records department; however, the hospital refused to provide records maintained by its risk-management department. Those records included detailed information about the lack of care provided to the patient immediately before his death.
A trial court and an appeals court both ruled that the hospital was only required to turn over the information it maintained in its medical records department. The case is now on appeal to the state’s highest court.
AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief, written by attorneys with AARP Foundation Litigation, argues that “medical records” under the Ohio law means all medical information maintained by a provider, not just the records a provider chooses to maintain in its “medical records” department. The brief describes how the lower court’s ruling undermines the individual’s right to self-determination in their medical care and robs the Ohio statute of its protections by allowing a health care provider to self-select what it considers to be “medical records.” The brief also describes how empowering individuals to access their complete medical records improves health outcomes and supports informal caregivers (i.e., any children or parents who are assisting with the individual’s care after he/she leaves the hospital).
What’s at Stake
Having full access to medical information is important in order to allow individuals to make informed decisions about care, correct errors in their medical records, ensure appropriate follow up care, and to advocate on their own behalf. The same information and access is important for any family caregivers and other informal caregivers when the individual requires assistance with these tasks.
Griffith v. Aultman Hospital is before the Supreme Court of Ohio.