Recently we received an email from one of our regular readers who, after saying that he’d read some of our previous posts on this subject, made this comment:-
This was our response:-
It’s a legal requirement under The Health Records and Information Act 2002 that doctors provide you with copies of your health records and information within 45 days of you requesting them.
But, as with most aspects of the NSW health system, to the extent that there’s regulation at all, it’s regulation without enforcement – in a word, there’s NO enforcement! Another subject on which we could write a book!
The problem for doctors is that if they provide you with copies of your health records and information, they may be “caught out” by something they’ve said or done not being the very best things they could have said or done. So as usual, it’s up to NSW health services consumers to look after themselves, without any help or backup from from anyone, certainly not from anyone in the medical profession!
These are some suggestions as to how they may do this, to the extent that their health records and information may be important to them.
(1) Before they start dealing with a doctor they should a send a letter to him or her, asking, “If I was to become one of your patients, how would I get copies of my health records?”
Some doctors, if you send them such a letter, express shock that you should even ask – it takes their front desk about 60 seconds to email back, “Just ask!” But, in our experience, such doctors are very few and far between. Four such letters, which were recently emailed to Dr Saxon Smith, a specialist dermatologist, within about 2 weeks, and they weren’t even acknowledged – and Dr Saxon Smith is the President of the NSW branch of the AMA , (the Australian Medical Association!!!!) It wouldn’t surprise us if it’s official AMA policy that it’s members should ignore the law – it would be interesting to find out. Or perhaps Dr Saxon Smith is just particularly slack.
(2) After each consultation with a doctor, they should ask for them for copies of their health records and information. In this way, the doctor’s track record on this will be quickly ascertained
(3) After each consultation with a doctor they should send them a letter along the lines of, “My understanding of your advices today were such and such. Have I got this right?” If a doctor won’t provide a response to a letter like this, when it should normally take less than a couple of minutes to do so, you certainly shouldn’t consider continuing to use them.
(4) In dealing with specialists, see them for as long as they feel necessary, without a referral from a GP. They won’t get any money back from Medicare, but the advantage is that they’ll report to them instead of their GP, so that if they happen to be dealing with a specialist who is so sleazy, (of whom there are a few out there,) that they’ll tell them one thing when they’re face to face with them, but when it comes to putting anything in writing they’ll say things that are quite different, against which there’s no protection against, unless they’re wired for sound, (because it’s the doctor’s word against there’s,) but at least they won’t have to wait to see their GP to find it out the sort of person they’re dealing with.
Of course, with what we call “coughs and colds” doctors, you probably won’t be bothered with all this, but, with anything serious, these are the sorts of things you have to do to protect yourself, because, as we’ve said, if anything goes wrong, no one else will help you.