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How Can I Access My Electronic Medical Records  (EMRs)?

What Are Electronic Medical Records?

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are simply the digital equivalent of your paper medical records which are created by medical providers and kept securely at their offices. When a provider creates a new medical record for you, the provider owns the rights to that original record, but you own the information obtained and recorded by the provider. Original medical records are protected by law and must be preserved by the provider or facility that originally created them, and cannot be released without a court order

What Are the Differences Between EMRs and EHRs and What Do They Contain?

You may have many EMRs — individual records created by individual providers about different aspects of your medical history and profile — but you only have one EHR. Electronic health records — EHRs — paint a picture of an individual’s entire medical history and profile, complete with information on “demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports.” 

Your EHRs contain two types of information: individually identifiable information — such as your name, physicians, diagnoses, and treatments — and aggregated health information, such as anonymous health data used for statistical purposes to gain insights on population health management.

Who Can Access My Medical Records?

Without your consent, your physician or health plan may share some of your health information, only to the extent necessary for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. This means that most of your healthcare providers ultimately can access at least some of your health information, since it may be necessary in order for them to coordinate your care. 

Other entities who can access your medical records include your payors — such as health insurance companies, Medicare, or Medicaid — as well as federal and state governments, the Medical Information Bureau, and certain prescription databases. You may also choose one or more designated personal representative(s), such as friends or family members, who have the right to access your medical records. Medical providers are required by law to provide you with their Notice of Privacy Practices. However, this law only mandates that they inform you of exactly how your information will be used or disclosed, and does not necessarily give you the right to entirely prevent them from using your information at all.

Does HIPAA Apply to EMRs and EHRs?

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act applies to all of your protected health information, regardless of whether it is on paper or in an electronic format. Your information must be protected by access controls such as passwords and PIN numbers, encryption, and an audit trail which records who accessed your records, what portions were accessed, and when any edits were made and by whom. The HIPAA Security Rule contains 75 different requirements to ensure that your electronic protected health information (ePHI) is adequately protected. Note that HIPAA’s purpose is not only to protect your privacy, but also to ensure your own right to access your medical records and not have them withheld by your providers.

How Can I Access My EMRs?

When you visit a doctor or other medical provider, your health information — including medical history, records of your visits, etc. will likely be uploaded to an online patient portal, which you can then log in to view. An estimated 52% of U.S. healthcare consumers have access to at least one patient portal, but fewer patients are actually using the tools, and the records they can access may be incomplete. If your providers are part of different plans or networks, then you may need a different portal for each one; with SAMI-Aid, however, you can keep all your electronic medical records in one place. According to HIPAA, you can request a physical or digital copy of your medical files, and providers are not allowed to charge you for the information, although they may charge a reasonable fee for printing costs. In California, the maximum that you can be charged for a copy of your medical records is 25 cents per page. You can also share medical files with individual providers who do not already have access to them.

If you call a doctor or nurse through SAMI-Aid, then the clinician will upload a report of your visit to your SAMI-Aid patient portal. If you visit a clinician elsewhere, you can obtain copies of your records from them, then upload and store the records securely in your SAMI-Aid patient portal. Your information is protected by encryption and two levels of passwords, and is stored securely on a HIPAA-compliant server. With SAMI-Aid, you can have everything in one place regardless of where you go for health care, instead of having your records split up across several different EMR systems.

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