Patients need to bring medical records to physician visits

Posted: Updated:
Lorraine Genchi now keeps a copy of all of her medical records. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Lorraine Genchi now keeps a copy of all of her medical records. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
'[W]hen you get a test done, when you see your doctor, when you get your EKG done, get a copy of it,' Dr. Jerald Altman suggests. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) '[W]hen you get a test done, when you see your doctor, when you get your EKG done, get a copy of it,' Dr. Jerald Altman suggests. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

"I am not really good at keeping files," Lorraine Genchi said as she carried a file full of medical records to her table. But she knows that file may be the key to staying healthy and making sure doctor visits go as planned.

"You are going to need everything that you have in your house for any doctor you go to," she said.

After a series of frustrating doctor visits, Genchi is now making sure she has a copy of every test and scan before seeing a physician.

"I can't imagine how much money has been wasted with sitting and talking to somebody and then saying well let's order a copy of your scans," she said.

Most recently, Genchi was referred to Dr. Jerald Altman, an otolaryngologist and ENT. But he had not received her records, and without those, there is not much he could do.

"And he was talking to me and I said, 'Aren't you going to do anything?' and he said, 'No, I have to get the scans first,'" Genchi recalled.

Altman says medical records are vital. Without them, his hands are practically tied.

“I can examine you; I can't give you the next step," he said. "I can't tell you if you need surgery. I can't tell you if you need to see a different specialist.  I don't have enough data to give you the right information.”  

Genchi was frustrated.

“So I started to cry,” she said.

Altman says it is frustrating for doctors, too.

[DIGITAL EXTRA: Altman's suggestions for patients]

"And it is a true frustration and it would be a frustration for me, as well, is some patients think all of our records are intertwined, that we are all on electronic health records so my records are linked to the hospital records, which are linked to the radiology records when, in fact, we are all separate," he said.

He says doctors try to make sure they coordinate patient care, but everything from broken FAX machines to different electronic medical records can get in the way.

"So the answer," he says, "is when you get a test done, when you see your doctor, when you get your EKG done, get a copy of it. Put it in a file and bring that to the next physician. By law, they are required to give you a copy of your record if they are asked."

He does believe that getting those records is part of the patient’s responsibility.

Genchi wishes she had known that.

"I wish they when you are making the appointment, [they ask] have you had any scans or ultrasounds lately, can you get copies and bring them with you, this will speed up your process." 

But now  that she does, she is ready with a folder full of records, hoping her next visit goes much better.

"And I am going to have all the scans and the ultrasound and everything when I go in there," she said. Her next appointment is still a few weeks away, but she hopes having those records will make things go much more smoothly.

Altman says there are other things you can do to make your visit go more smoothly, as well.  

Write down any symptoms you are having and any medications you are taking and tell the doctor about them.  Bring a pen and notepad; bring a friend to help take notes. He also says it never hurts to bring a snack because sometimes visits go longer than expected.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.