Change in law meant to improve communication with patients about medical records
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A member of the Virginia House of Delegates is hoping a change in law will help patients by improving communication about medical records.
Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, sponsored House Bill 555 in the 2022 legislative session. It passed and was signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in April. It went into effect on July 1.
Prior to HB 555, the Virginia code stated before medical records can be transferred due to the closure, sale or relocation of a practice, patients have to first be notified by mail or by publishing a notice in the newspaper.
“Everybody knows in this day and time there are other means that patients can be notified,” explained Hayes.
Learning more about HB 555 started with a Colonial Heights couple calling 12 On Your Side concerned about getting access to their medical records. Their doctor’s office closed without notice.
They drove to their doctor’s office finding the doors shut. There was a note on the door saying the practice was no longer in existence.
After their own investigation, the couple was able to find the doctor via e-mail, learned the doctor closed for financial reasons and requested copies of their medical records.
“Going forward, practitioners have the option of sending an electronic communication as well. We know in our day in time, that might be even more effective than posting in the newspaper,” said Hayes.
The law also states that records or copies should be sent in a reasonable time to a patient who makes a written request.
Hayes hopes practitioners being required to notify patients in several ways will save patients from the same frustration the Colonial Heights couple went through.
He does admit more needs to be done when it comes to doctors closing their doors and going completely out of business without releasing medical records. Hayes says it’s important to address any loopholes in the law and make sure people are not left scrambling to get access to their records in order to start care with a new doctor.
“If they’re no longer in practice, that poses an additional challenge for us. If they have moved and they are still in business and they haven’t notified a patient, then a remedy would be to file a complaint with the board of medicine,” Hayes said. “It’s a no-brainer that we need to be able to have practitioners contact their patients in the case of their records being transferred.”
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