In this series we show you the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to your health and the many ways you can prevent common medical errors.
Medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the United States. The American Association for Justice estimates that 440,000 errors resulting in death occur each year. We’ve learned a thing or two after handling medical malpractice cases for more than 30 years. We’ve learned that while medicine is complex, errors often can be prevented in simple, common sense ways. When you take charge of your own medical information you can actually decrease the odds it will happen to you.
When you go to a medical center for radiology imaging like an MRI or CT scan, you typically leave expecting your doctor to get the results and call you if there’s a problem. This is because, historically, patients never receive the radiology report directly. But as we’ve discussed, sometimes these reports “fall through the cracks” which can lead to delayed or missed diagnoses when the ordering physician does not report a problem to the patient. In an attempt to reduce these medical mistakes, the Patient Test Results Information Act, referred to as Act 112, was passed into law by Governor Wolf.Unfortunately, there has been much debate over how to interpret this new law that requires imaging facilities to notify a patient directly of any “significant abnormalities” on the test. What is a “significant abnormality” is a common question that is open for interpretation. According to the Department of Health, “significant abnormalities” are those requiring follow-up care within three months. For many, this definition is too vague, and if left open to interpretation, could lead to inconsistent compliance with the law. There are other questions as well about which diagnostic studies are covered under the Act’s reporting requirements. The confusion over these issues has resulted in pushback from some healthcare providers and institutions that feel the law should be changed to be more specific.
The bottom line is that you, the patient, have a right to receive your own medical records if you request them. Reports of your x-rays, CT Scans, MRIs, etc are considered medical records. Therefore, we recommend that whenever you undergo a diagnostic test you should ask for a copy of the report of the test. You can then review it with your doctor who ordered the test. This improves communication between you and your doctor and can reduce negative outcomes like delayed or missed diagnoses. So while Act 112 is a positive attempt at progress, given the confusion surrounding the interpretation of this law, taking the initiative to request your records is still the best way to protect yourself from a radiology error. For more information on how you can take charge of your health, visit our Advocacy Series. If you or a loved one is the victim of a radiology error, call or message Scartelli Olszewski today for a free claim evaluation.