The day after I found out I was pregnant, I requested a copy of my medical records from UCLA. I should have requested them much sooner, but I didn’t for two reasons. The first was that when I requested a copy of my records from Madeline’s pregnancy (from a different hospital), it took five days to receive them, so I figured UCLA would move just as quickly. It’s hilarious I thought that, actually. That was my first reason/mistake. The second reason I waited was I was just really in denial about the whole UCLA/Blue Shield insurance thing. I was certain they’d work it out in time. That was my second mistake.
Getting medical records from UCLA is a process. First, you have to request them in writing. Luckily, I was able to fax in my request on April 10. A few days later, I called them to confirm they’d received my fax. I was told that it would take fifteen days to process my request. That meant I wouldn’t have them for my first appointment with my new OB, but I’d likely have them in time for my first appointment with Dr. Hirisk. I was annoyed, but only with myself for not thinking ahead and requesting them in advance.
On April 25th, I received a call from the records department. They were calling to confirm they’d received my request, and exactly which records did I need? I said, hey there, let’s back up – it’s been fifteen days, I thought I was supposed to have my records by now. I was told no, it takes fifteen days just to process the request. As in, fifteen days to literally get to my faxed letter asking for a copy of my records. I told the woman exactly what records I needed (all records from Dr. Risky and Dr. Blood from April 2009 to April 2010 – which I’d written on the letter I’d faxed in, but whatever). She told me that someone would pull my records, count how many pages I requested, send me a bill for the copies, and after I paid the bill they would then make a copy of my records and send them to me. I asked if I could pay in person and wait for my copies, and she replied that it wasn’t an option. At this point, I was really rolling my eyes at UCLA.
The bill for the copies arrived on April 30, and I mailed back a check for $19.08 that same day. After that I was busy with travel, Jackie!’s walk, and Mother’s Day, so it slipped my mind. Then I miscarried and it really slipped my mind. An hour after my OB told me about the tissue error, my phone rang. It was someone from the UCLA medical records department calling to tell me that sometime between the counting of the pages and the actual copying of said pages, part of my records had been misplaced. I was all, “jigga wha?” The woman on the other end assured me they were looking everywhere for them, and that they’d not only send what they had now, but also refund my money for the pages I wasn’t getting AND SPECIAL BONUS send me the copies of the missing pages for free once they were located. UM YOU THINK?!?!
If she hadn’t gotten me so soon after I’d already used up all my angry juice on my former OB, I would have asked to speak with a supervisor. But instead I figured I’d wait until the records arrived to see what “part” was missing before I got mad. I was too worn out to get into it that day.
Well, they arrived on Saturday. The first page? The day I delivered Annabel. So the “part” that was missing was my entire pregnancy, and everything from Dr. Blood. So, not PART of my chart. MY ENTIRE CHART. The only things they had were what was “online,” meaning, test results. For example, they included the ultrasound results from June 2011, when Dr. Looove thought my gallbladder was exploding. That also means I paid for copies of records I didn’t request. OH and they didn’t send me a refund, so I also paid for things I didn’t get at all.
I have a call in to the medical records department, a call that has yet to be returned. Maybe because they could sense my extreme anger?
Jay- The Dude of the House says:
Isn’t it reassuring to know that UCLA is a teaching hospital?
We had major problems with their billing system from the Little Dude’s delivery. It’s even more annoying now that they don’t take Blue Shield, though my wife’s doctor seems to think that will change soon.
RE: Blue Shield, I REALLY hope that’s true…but I’ve been hearing that for months now from my nurse friends.
I love UCLA as a medical center. I’ve had EXCELLENT care there, as did Annabel and Madeline, and considering Madeline died in a UCLA hospital I think that’s saying a lot. But JESUS. Their paperwork people are not good. I hear you with the billing – my UCLA bill rule was to never pay anything until the third time I received it. They would often bill me before my insurance. Ridiculous!
Jay- The Dude of the House says:
We had excellent care at UCLA-SM with my wife’s C-Section and the newborn nurses were out of this world. We are going to have to go to St. Johns next time unless something changes, so I’m hoping her OB is correct about Blue Shield.
But their billing department is full of clowns. I did the same exact thing with waiting to pay. We didn’t even receive the hospital bill for the delivery/hospital stay until 6-8 months after he was born.
Amanda C says:
Sweet jeezus…are you kidding me?! The reason I ask is that because I’ve worked in medical records for the last 15 or so years. Granted, it’s not at a hospital like UCLA but STILL!!! o.m.g. Yes, demand answers and demand they find your records…don’t they scan that stuff in now?? Even we do that! I’d be livid, absolutely livid. They have the responsibility of keeping that information safe and private, not from you or your physicians, but from prying eyes. And, if they can’t handle that for one person, I shudder to think what kind of disarray their department is in. So sorry to hear this. Also, a good HIM department does not “lose” records…EVER. That is not even a legitimate excuse. Your records were for another doc, right? They really shouldn’t even charge you then; it’s called continuity of care. Maybe things work differently in CA. I’m just sorry you had to deal with such unprofessional turds.
There is this “They have the responsibility of keeping that information safe and private, not from you or your physicians, but from prying eyes.”
I’d be sure to mention HIPAA when talking with them. The complete disregard of a patient’s personal information is astounding.
I’m with Kris. In my brief stint as a medical records specialist for a major insurer (last recession, couldn’t find another job, so I temped for months), what you describe had never happened.
Yes, teaching hospitals are the worst when it comes to sending records, I literally had files that didn’t close for the duration of my stint there. OTOH, they are also generally very thorough with paperwork copying. It is unacceptable for them to have misplaced your records (I would guess this happened while copying them, and they ended up in someone else’s folder), so accept nothing less than your entire record copied for free and an apology bordering on a plea not to sue them.
I’m mad for you, honestly.
Uh yea… them not being able to find medical records, isn’t that a violation of HIPAA? If they can’t find them, then how do they know they are in a safe, secure and private location?
As for you Heather, I think I’d file a grievance with the CA Dept of Public Health and UCLA for a start. Truly unacceptable.
From the UCLA website, “Patient Safety”
Okay…not because I think I can solve your problem with the records thing…but UCLA being what it is, do they not use effing digital records? Every lowly hospital I have used to include my docs has computerized records going back to 2007!! Surely someone can “fond” your damn records. This kind of shit pisses me off!! I hope you get them. I once wanted to write a book on preemies being that I was one and Nature v. Nurture. Called the hospital and they destroyed my records. Argh!!
Dude, do they not use EMR (electronic medical records)? EMR is not without its issues but at least copies of everything are online. I thought all major hospitals had done this by now. How frustrating!
Major ones mostly have, yes. They’re not “online” though, and while they have electronic records, it’s not easily transferable…they still have to print them out to give them to patients. They can’t for example just email them. They’re mandated to transmit electronic copies in the next few years.
I work in the medical field. This is a HIPAA violation. Bad bad bad.
I’m sorry this happened to you. You seem to have the worst luck. I hope they find them.
It’s actually malpractice to lose records in most states. They should be freaking out. I’m wondering if their risk management department has them? Perhaps they were flagged and they took them to look them over and never gave them back? Also, I’m not sure how it works in CA, but where I am if your new doctor requests them rather than you, it goes much much faster. I’m so sorry this happened – I hope they find them quickly so you do not have to suffer any more frustration over this.
You might have something there. I’ve had to request medical records for myself, and have my doctors request them, too. It always seems to go more smoothly in the latter case. Probably because doctors’ offices have people dedicated to pestering them, like insurance companies do (I know I had to do a lot of “You’ve had our request on file for X days, is there any way you can expedite the records as a courtesy?” every day when I worked retrieving records), whereas a patient is often too busy going about their day to be on their case.
As a few above posters have noted- this is indeed a HIPAA violation. While the physical paper record may belong to the Institution- the data contained within that record is YOURS. And frankly, the Instiuttion is bound by HIPAA to protect and maintain the privacy of that information. What is even more repugnant is that they can expect you to pay quickly (for what should by rights belong to you) and at a premium for someone to take 15 days to stand in front of a copier, and then promptly lose what they’ve copied. You get to pay for that fantastic service first, of course, before not receiving what you paid black market prices for.
The next time you call I would highly recommend that you bandy about the term HIPAA violation, because that should get you a more diligent response, surely. No Institution- especially one with such a storied and difficult “working personality” like UCLA- wants to deal with the ramifications of a HIPAA violation.
I work with UCLA consistently, negotiating contacts and budgets with them. While they are a highly sought after Institution when it comes to level of care- they are HIGHLY disliked because of their rigid inflexibility, extremely high costs, position to “nickel and dime” every procedure, and a long, twisted network of impossible processes. It really doesn’t shock me that it’s taking a very long time for them to come to agreement with Blue Shield, and honestly- knowing how long this type of activity usually takes them- I would’t hold my breath that they will resolve it any time soon.
This is sadly not unusual, from my experience. Also I think many records departments are in the process of transitioning to all-electronic records, and it’s chaotic. This is no excuse, of course!
I always suggest requesting copies of records immediately after a hospital stay (or procedure, or whatever). This is also helpful if you want to audit the bill, which many people don’t want to deal with but is also a good idea.
Ugh, how frustrating!
I’m quite surprised too that they don’t have these records scanned somewhere (I mean, it’s UCLA). Sounds to me like you need to get the right person on the phone (i.e. a supervisor) or go down there in person – you’ll be surprised how quickly your records get found and you get refunded once you start talking HIPAA violations and lawyers….
I second this.
When will you catch a break, woman?! How incredibly frustrating! I hope they find them and soon!
cindy w says:
Just reading this made my blood boil on your behalf. GAH. I cannot imagine how frustrating that is.
They’re doing a great job keeping the professional in the medical profession. Not. It’s beyond ridiculous that they can’t manage their records.
Every time I hear stories like this, which is often, I am shocked that anyone would ever think socialized medicine like they have in Canada could be inefficient. Our current system is horrid! At least if we had a single-payer system of universal healthcare we’d never *have* to switch medical records from one provider to another.
And this is why I work at HIMSS, and have made electronic health record adoption advocacy my career–with patient engagement and making patients able to easily request and receive thier OWN DATA. It drives me nuts when I hear stories like yours…it shouldn’t be this complicated.
On another note, I think of you often Heather–I hope you are feeling much better physically and I so hope you don’t give up trying to have another. You’re such a good mama.
This is crazy! I would march in there, ask for the supervisor, demand a full refund as well as your lost medical records. Threaten to contact everyone that you possibly can to get them busted for the HIPPA violation as loudly as you can. But this is just what I would do. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and I can SQUEAK very loudly! Wish I could come and do this for you, because I am sure the last place you want to go right now is to a hospital. I wonder how many other patients records were lost, or given to the wrong patient, etc. Sorry you are having to deal with this, you need a break! Good things are coming for you, they just have to. Good luck!
First, UCLA is no doubt accredited by the Joint Commission. Joint Commission inspections and recertifications strike fear into most hospital employees, especially in medical records. You might want to register a complaint at jointcommission.org. Second, I’ve worked in medical management for almost 30 years. We never charge a patient for a copy of their chart if it is being requested for continuity of care. The $19 UCLA collected from you will pale in comparison to the fines assessed by the Joint Commission and for HIPPA violations.
.. and Heather.. here’s the contact info for the Joint Commission from the UCLA website:
The Joint Commission
Fax complaint: (630) 792-5636
Email complaint: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seriously fugged up. I’m so sorry.
This goes from the ridiculous to the absurd! I’ve never heard of them charging you for your records. After that long of a wait, they should have just given them to you. I hope they find the missing pages but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I would be calling and complaining loudly until I at least got an apology.
Years ago when we lived in WI, a dentist I went to sent me to a periodontist. It took 6 wks to get an appt and she needed my records. I asked if I could pick them up and take them to the appt. OH NO. They didn’t trust me, they thought I’d lose them. Soi they insisited on mailing them. A week before the appt., the periodontist’s office calls to say the copies never arrived. They were lost in the mail and my dentist wanted to charge ME to make copies of xrays, etc. Like $25. I said I wouldn’t pay it and insurance wouldn’t pay for it so I was going without. The day of the appt., I get a call from the dentist that they were returned to their office because they forgot to put the office # on envelope. Would I come over and pick them up?! I did and was so pissed off. Everyone is so cavalier about things. Wishing you lots of luck getting everything straightened out, Heather!
Sounds like someone needs their butt handed to them. Paging incompetence party of ….how many people are responsible for this?
you must go in person and birddog them, with you waiting….. only way it will be what you want. Patrick’s whole transplant and follow up care was a daily ritual of asking for paperwork/tests/authorizations and then one of us actually going to get it, so that it was in fact done. medical care was fab, but the insurance/billing/rx filling…. eeesshhhhh
I can only echo what other commenters have already said—call back and argue that under HIPAA it is their responsibility to protect your information AND have it available to you…and this most certainly is a violation.
Damn, Heather, I’m just sorry you have to go through this…how incredibly annoying
I would be so unbelievably pissed off. That is just ridiculous. I would be chewing someone out, big time. Hopefully they pull things together for you soon.
I’m sorry sister! I know how freaking frustrating that is. Last January when I need to get 2nd, 3rd, & 4th opinions…they couldn’t get me my files quickly enough. I finally got my records 2 months later after I had already started a new trial. Stupid offices!
Love you my monchichi!
Oh Em Gee. Don’t you just love bureaucracy? I am not even surprised that all this crap happened.
Oh hell to the no. I would be LIVID. I am livid for you. I guarantee if you walk in there and state the words “HIPPA violation”, you will walk out with any records you need. Institutions like this are ass backwards.
File a complaint with HHS:
I can’t believe that happens in modern society. I was born in 1980, and I recently had to get my mother’s hospital records to prove my citizenship for my passport application (long story, basically my birth certificate is inherently wonky, like Obama’s). And my rinky-dink little hospital that delivered me THIRTY-TWO YEARS AGO took only THREE DAYS to find both electronic AND paper copies of all the records surrounding my birth. And they even had the proofs from the hospital photographer. How is it that a hillbilly hospital in Appalachian Virginia can manage this, but arguably one of the best hospital systems in the world can’t hold onto records for five years?
As a customer service rep for a security company, here is what I know and what gets you things very quickly.
When you call the records department tomorrow the first thing you do is tell the person on the phone you would like their supervisor. If they tell you their supervisor is not in, you tell them that this is regarding a HIPPA violation and an incident that has been stemming for the last month, and if it is not resolved will go to the BBB and Attorney General’s Office. Then tell whomever answers you want their first and last name or employee ID number for the compliant.
Any time any institution hears BBB and Attorney General’s Office they snap into action. I guarantee you a result within 24-48 hours.
I also agree with every poster here who said that this is a HIPPA violation, it is, 100%. They lost your records. Regardless of the fact this has all of your history with your pregnancy and everything, where did it go? Who has it? Was it tossed out? (and has your social security on it, birthday, old address) is it laying in a dump somewhere or in a box somewhere? These are your records. Not the hospitals YOURS. It’s a violation of your privacy and your rights. $20 or not, they violated your terms and your rights and the right of that form you filled out that stated they would keep your medical history private.
If my doctor lost my file I’d be pissed. I have a complicated history as well. I had Guillian Barre Syndrome and explaining that to a million doctors over and over without the file and the bloodwork and everything? Ugh.
Wow, that sucks!! I hope they find your records soon (and they better copy the whole thing for free, too!).
The hospital where our twins were born lost both of their NICU/neonatal records. BOTH of them. ALL of them. Never found them again. They said they probably ended up in someone else’s folder and there’s too many of those to plough through them all. I still get so pissed thinking about that… A lot of what happened during that time is kind of a blur in my head. It would be so nice to be able to read some of it back (apart from what we wrote in their NICU diaries).
And that’s information that’s not even medically necessary to have for me, because they are both perfectly healthy right now. It’s just information I would LIKE to have, I don’t actually NEED it.
The information in YOUR records might be able to save the life of a possible future child of yours. They had BETTER find those!!!
I am not defending the medical records department but I have worked in Freedom of Information for a major hospital i.e. the people who send out the medical records and what I will say in general is that what is important to you, is one of 20 or 30 or 40 requests they received that day. So you do have to plan ahead. In Australia the hospital has 45 days just to respond to your request. WIth relation to missing records unfortunately it happens. The hospital i worked out was over 9 months BEHIND filing loose pages that had come down without a matching folder. FIles often get left in doctor’s offices, or in the wards, and will be months before they remember to send it down. It is horrible, but unfortunately it happens. Which is why you should request a copy after every admission.
jill (mrschaos) says:
I’m fuming. And we don’t even know one another.
First of all, WHY IS UCLA USING PAPER MEDICAL RECORDS?!? Last time I checked, it was 2012 and most medical groups (even UC/education facilities!) had moved to electronic records.
I should stop here before I make an ass of myself.
Heather, I know you have received a lot of advice but please try to contact UCLA’s HIPAA Privacy Officer first before trying other directions. The university’s HIPAA Privacy Officer should be the person who directs the investigations into breaches of confidentiality under HIPAA including those from a loss of medical records; if you start somewhere else, you will most likely get directed back to this person so you’ll save time if you start there. Someone else may have mentioned this, but in case they didn’t–California has stricter laws regarding protection of patient privacy and confidentiality of information than are offered under HIPAA so those laws will actually trump HIPAA since the stricter law is the one that should be adhered to. I oversee compliance monitoring for research at a university medical center and (by default) sometimes health care confidentiality issues as well. Odds are the head of the medical records department will have no better idea of what happened to your records and how to remedy it than will the person you already spoke to.