AUSTIN, Texas, June 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Parents may require help obtaining complete medical records and understanding what is in them after a child suffers birth-related complications and injury, says birth injury attorney Kenneth Suggs.
"Federal law is clear that parents have a right to this information, but actually getting it and understanding it can be difficult and may require the help of an attorney," Suggs said.
Suggs and parents of a child who developed cerebral palsy as the result of a birth injury discuss difficulties obtaining medical records in a new video.
Under the Federal Health Information Portability Accountability Act, hospitals and doctors must provide patients or, in the case of minor children, their parents or guardians, requested medical records within 60 days, he explained. In most states, children's records must be kept for three to 10 years beyond age 18 or 21. Also, under HIPAA:
- Medical providers are required to share doctors' notes, medical test results, lab reports, and billing information.
- Providers may charge for this information. However, if you tell them in writing that you cannot afford the charge, they will usually provide it for free.
Requests must be made in writing and be specific about the information wanted, and also must be made to each entity that has records, such as doctors, the hospital, and the ER. Even then, some information may not be provided because of different interpretations of the law, a mistaken belief that detailed information is over the patient's head or reluctance to air mistakes by a colleague, Suggs noted.
"The law lets the provider withhold or delay giving out certain information, and sometimes this gets interpreted too broadly on the side of the medical establishment," he said.
Still, it's important that parents gather as much information as they can in the aftermath of a complicated delivery and birth injury as a beginning step to talking to an attorney, he said. He added that it's important for everyone to keep copies of all medical records routinely.
Suggs offered the following advice about obtaining medical records following the birth of a child who may have suffered a preventable birth-related injury:
- Ask for medical records as soon after the birth as possible, and continue to collect records even though a diagnosis may not be determined. A child can suffer brain injury at birth and not show symptoms for months or even years, until developmental milestones are not realized.
- Ask for both the baby and the mother's medical records.
- Ask for the hospital or doctor's complete records. Sometimes, patients are provided medical records routinely through on-line portals, but these may be condensed or partial versions of the actual records.
- Make sure the records contain the fetal monitoring strips taken during any labor.
- Don't be shy about asking for information. It's your right.
Be Persistent and Ask for Help
A family dealing with a newborn with serious medical problems is going to be severely stressed, without a lot of energy to deal with medical records' issues, Suggs noted. "This is a good time for parents to give a trusted family member the legal authority to pursue medical records on their behalf. This can usually be done by filling out a patient record release authorization form provided by the hospital or doctor, he said.
After gathering basic information, parents should look for a law firm with extensive experience in handling birth injury cases, Suggs said. "Be sure to ask how many cases the firm has handled, what recent results have been, and whether they have medical professionals on staff to review medical records," he advised.
"For example, Janet, Jenner & Suggs has litigated hundreds of birth injury cases across the country, and our attorneys and medical staff – including a board-certified obstetrician and specialty nurses – has reviewed thousands of medical records. We know how to get medical records and we know how to interpret them.
"Even if our review shows no evidence of preventable medical error, parents will know they've gotten an independent opinion about what happened and why, and that can offer some relief," he said.
About Janet, Jenner & Suggs
Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLC, focuses much of its practice on advocacy of children and families who have been injured as the result of medical error, dangerous prescription drugs and medical devices, defective products or environmental toxins. Each of the firm's principals is named in The Best Lawyers in America® and Super Lawyers®. The firm has offices in Maryland, South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota, and West Virginia. The firm accepts clients and referrals from clients and attorneys throughout the country.
To view this video on YouTube, please visit: http://youtu.be/RkemPQw48UE
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SOURCE Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLC