By Renee HoJanuary 29, 2016

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Patient records. Long considered property of the doctor’s secret trove where facts about you went and never came back, they are now yours—more easily than ever before.
 
In fact, as a patient in the United States, you’ve had a right to your medical records for some time, but it hasn’t always been easy. As though challenging authority—the doctors—by merely asking wasn’t difficult enough, doctors and medical providers have often made the process even more painful.
 
This month, new federal guidelines say that doctors and hospitals have to now provide patients copies of their records within 30 days of request. Moreover, they cannot require patients to state a reason for requesting their records.
 
“Some doctors seem to believe that medical records are intended only for doctor-to-doctor communication, and that patients would not understand those records,” one parent said in an interview for the New York Times.
 
“It’s empowering when you get all this information,” another explained. “You can be a much better advocate for the patient.”
 
The part that I find most interesting about the HIPAA Privacy Rule is the following from the US Department of Health and Human Services:

“The Rule gives individuals the right to have covered entities amend their protected health information in a designated record set when that information is inaccurate or incomplete.

In short, a patient can say, “Hey, doctor, can I give you a little feedback? This thing you wrote about me is wrong. Please fix it.”
 
My mind is blown. I am not sure how this plays out in practice but in theory, it is revolutionary. Sure, the request can be denied—for example, if it’s inaccurate—but at least the doctor has to prove that it’s so.
 
What if constituents (“beneficiaries”) could tell their NGO project manager, foundation program officer, World Bank task team leader, impact evaluator, or expert-by-any-other-name:
 
“Hey, that thing you think about me and my life? Yeah, it’s wrong. Please fix it.”

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