This reporter tried to gather all his medical records in 72 hours. Here's what happened
After Donald Trump challenged Hillary Clinton to release her full medical records, New York Times reporter Margot Sanger-Katz wrote an article calling the idea of complete medical records "fiction." But is it really impossible to hunt down all your medical records? NYT reporter Ron Lieber wanted to find out.
The verdict? "I did not finish," Mr. Lieber wrote in his follow-up article for the NYT. But in the span of three days, he managed to do quite a bit of sleuthing. The following are the steps Mr. Lieber took to gather what he could of his medical records.
1. Pediatrician. First, Mr. Lieber got in touch with his childhood physician, Frederick M. Cahan, MD — whom he called "Uncle Fred" — in Chicago. Although Dr. Cahan managed to find the records of Mr. Lieber's twin siblings, who were born in 1976, he couldn't locate Mr. Lieber's.
2. Insurance. In 2006, elevated liver enzymes showed up on Mr. Lieber's life insurance medical screening. He visited a specialist to have an ultrasound, which didn't show anything abnormal. But he couldn't remember who the specialist was, and his primary care physician didn't have a record of a referral.
Thinking his insurer in 2006 was Aetna, Mr. Lieber gave the company a call. To get a copy of every single one of its explanation benefits, Mr. Lieber would have to sign a release form. He decided to sign the form and fax it to Aetna, but was forced to contend with multiple faulty fax machines.
3. Databases. In 2009, Mr. Lieber took a prescription drug but couldn't recall the name of it or the physician who had prescribed it. He called up companies such as ScriptCheck and IntelliScript, which provide reports about people's prescription records.
Mr. Lieber learned "ScriptCheck will give you only the prescription data that it gave the insurance company, going back seven years." Since his pursuit was of 2009 information based on his life insurance application from 2006, the attempt was futile. His encounter with IntelliScript was similar. After putting in a request, he received an email saying the company didn't have any information on him. It turns out "no report exists until an insurance company asks for one."
4. Mental health. Mr. Lieber didn't glean anything from his therapist, either. "Alas, the federal law that grants you the right to request your medical records specifically gives mental health practitioners permission to withhold their psychotherapy notes," he wrote.
5. Other physicians. Although he wanted to gather records from all the physicians he'd seen throughout the years, some attempts to do so fell through. He was easily able to get the results of his last liver test from his current primary care physician, who was an early EHR adopter. But he had to fax in a request for records from a physician he'd previously seen for back trouble. And he couldn't just scan the X-ray image from when he broke his arm this year — instead, he had to wait for a full copy of the X-ray.
6. Travel vaccinations. To his surprise, Mr. Lieber's attempt at getting records from a round of travel vaccinations in 2005 proved successful. He couldn't remember where he'd gotten the shots, but he thought the location might be in Greenwich Village. After visiting a number of viable options, Mr. Lieber found a travel medicine specialist's office that looked familiar. He stopped in, and one of the office's staff members unsuccessfully searched for his name in the database. But after Mr. Lieber told her the probable date of his visits, she pulled out a flash drive and found his records.
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