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My partner/significant other/spouse, etc has a somewhat uncommon last name. Occasionally, it'll evoke some sort of harmless comment but that's been about it over her 50-something years. She's used to it and has a good sense of humor. Her two sisters share the same surname. They experience the same sort of thing.

A year or so ago, things began to change. She began to receive emails reminding her of medical appointments she didn't have, letters from our insurance provider denying coverage for illnesses she isn't afflicted with, and the random cancellation of flight reservations.

Three weeks ago she went to her doctor for a routine visit. The doctor is affiliated with a large hospital in our area and as part of the visit, always goes over medical records with the patient. The records showed my partner to have juvenile diabetes, depression, heart disease and hepatitis.  Per the records, she has also sought psychiatric help to deal with my death (I'm feeling much better, thank you).

The doctor called the IT department to have the erroneous info removed and to have the medical records flagged, as it appeared that her surname is used during training exercises. The records were tagged with a huge red banner at the top indicating my partner is a real person and under no circumstances should training information be entered into her records.  She came home feeling better that the situation had been addressed.


Today, during another routine appointment with a different doctor, affiliated with the same hospital system, my beloved learned from her records that:

She has two brothers
Is prescribed Zoloft
She was born 10 years before her mother
Her grandfather is suicidal
She has a heart murmur
I did not in fact, die

All this might be funny except for her/our ongoing fear that should something happen requiring urgent medical care and she is unresponsive, and I am not around, what might happen during treatment. What might her records indicate? We are concerned that false medical information may cause her/our insurance premiums to rise, or the insurance dropped altogether.

Obviously, she could use my last name, or a hyphenated version of both, but that doesn't guarantee resolution and besides, it has been her name for all these years, and we like it. She has mailed a certified letter to the hospital administrator but we've low expectations that will accomplish much.

Any concrete ideas? Specific advice from someone with medical records experience is most welcomed.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Since the same problem (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, FloridaSNMOM, chimene

    keeps cropping up even after it has been fixed, and since the dangers involved in an emergency could be life-or-death, change her name legally. She may like her current name better, and this may be unfair, but the question to ask is whether it is worth the risk (and continual aggravation) to stick with the current name. These kind of things never get fixed.

  •  Wild ! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball

    Hire a hacker to hack into the records system and correct the info ?

    The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. David Morrison

    by indycam on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 10:58:28 AM PDT

  •  Change Your Provider Immediately (17+ / 0-)

    Without getting into specifics, let me say that I am intimately aware of the type of situation you're talking about.

    Regardless of what EMR solution your provider is using, and regardless of how unusual your "partner/significant other/spouse" is, no Healthcare IT department is going to allow people to conduct training classes in their production environment.  There should be an entirely separate instance/partition where training and staging take place that cannot possibly impact actual patient records.

    This is one of THE most basic rules.  This is "Freshman in college knows this" level stuff.

    If that's the actual explanation that someone at that Hospital system gave you, find a new hospital system.

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 11:02:18 AM PDT

  •  Write a letter to the CEO of the hospital system (13+ / 0-)

    with a copy to your partner's attorney outlining the problem (without revealing personal details) and requesting a meeting with the CEO and appropriate people in charge of records and training so that she can go over her records in detail to correct the info. Also suggest in the letter that she is concerned that if a medical emergency should arise she is afraid that she will receive improper treatment as a result of erroneous records. And that, surely, the hospital would not want to open itself up to liability if she should suffer as a result of improper treatment due to faulty records. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. - Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 11:08:28 AM PDT

  •  I think you need a conversation with (17+ / 0-)

    a lawyer who is familiar with HIPAA.  You need at least a letter demanding the correction of the information, and perhaps a lawsuit.

    I am not a lawyer, but I suspect there are federal law violations here regarding medical privacy (HIPAA) that could lead to either criminal charges or civil lawsuits.  In the case of a lawsuit, awarded damages could completely pay for the attorney as well.

    James L. Petigru, SC Unionist: "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."

    by SC damn yankee on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 11:09:09 AM PDT

  •  Save everything, make copies, (9+ / 0-)

    send a letter to the hospital or medical association, cc the doctor (with thanks for his/her help) and insurance company, ask them to remedy the situation before something serious happens, and ask what further actions are available if the situation is not resolved. Oh, send it registered mail: that gets their attention.

    Be courteous and clear. A clear, to-the-point letter not only help them focus on the basic problem, but it will let them know you're not a dimwit doormat and that you're ready to take legal steps.

    No need for rage or bluster or legal threats (yet).

    Don't rely on phone calls to get anything done. Phone calls turn into notes that can garble your information and get lost. Certified letters and attachments will remain on file for at least 7 years (I think).

    I'm sure her doctor will be enraged to hear this remains a problem, and will start making a much bigger fuss than calling IT.  Bureaucracies can take more than one intervention to get moving. Best of luck.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 11:10:31 AM PDT

  •  Good luck. My discouraging similar story... (10+ / 0-)

    I'm a doctor.  I've got a last name you've heard before although it isn't all that common.
    My practice consists of adults.  Starting maybe 12 yeas ago, I would get occasional phone calls from a hospital on the far side of town where I had privileges but never admitted patients, asking for orders on "my" patient whose name I didn't recognize.  After some confusion it would become clear that the doctor they should have been calling was a pediatrician with the same last name but a first name that falls later in the alphabet.  

    This was a minor irritation until one call came at midnight.  When I was awake enough to ask how old "my" patient in the ER was, they said 18 months.  I got the ER doctor on the phone, and he was quite apologetic and promised he'd make sure it never happened again.  About 12 hours later they called me from the floor where the child had been admitted, again thinking he was my patient.

    I resigned from the hospital staff, with a snide letter about the literacy of the clerical help they were hiring.  (I'd been looking for a reason to quit doing annual paperwork to renew my privileges that I never used, anyway.)

    A few months later, I got one more call about a phantom patient, but that was the last time and it's been several years now.

    TooFolkGR suggested you change your provider and hospital.  I have no suggestions of anything less drastic that would work.  

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 11:24:00 AM PDT

  •  Sue. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Hospital, the Airline, anyone that is accessing these records. Sue the sh!t out of them.
    Someone screwed up your medical records and shared them, Now the airlines are getting those botched records from somewhere and acting on them. And I suspect that the origin of this will turn out to be an insurance company (since under HIPAA, they have full access to your records that even the local hospital can't get).
    Is it only one airline? Not if the car rental and hotels are cancelling too.
    Start suing these bas+ards until they figure out what happened and fix it.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 12:06:56 PM PDT

    •  a lawsuit is not always the best approach (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA, sturunner

      To file a civil lawsuit, you must have a theory of liability. That is, you must claim that the defendant breached a contract, or engaged in some sort of tortious conduct (i.e., wrongdoing), or violated a statute.

      I suppose the theory in this case could be negligence, but this requires not only proving that the defendant had a duty to you that he/it breached, but that you suffered damages as a result. There are no damages yet.

      There might also be a claim under HIPAA, but again, no evidence of harm and no actual damages to be paid. Would you want to pay a lawyer by the hour to pursue a claim that will not pay for itself in the end?

      I second the suggestions that you involve the provider's privacy person and/or risk management staff. Approach this as a problem to be solved in the best interests of both the patient and the provider. Adverse publicity in the local media may also prove helpful if they are not cooperative.

      I spent 15 years working in medical record administration before going to law school. I worked at one of the top 10 hospitals in the country and if such a thing had happened there, it would have been taken care of ASAP.

    •  I see no basis for a legal suit. (0+ / 0-)

      To date, there have been no damaging consequences.

      religion is the smile on a dog...

      by lbl1162 on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 03:29:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Whatever hospital this is it's doing an extremely (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, JerryNA, sturunner, chimene

    shitty IT job.  Any sane place would have a test region and a live region, where the live data isn't touched except as needed by the medical professionals and not the IT people.

    I used to work on inpatient medical records as an IT person.  We had the live and test regions, although I did have some rights to make changes to the live system.  Even though I had the access, I would never, ever dream of messing with live data.  That's what a test region is for.  IMNSHO, call a lawyer and have them write a 'sternly' worded letter to the hospital and if that doesn't remedy the situation.... sue their asses cause they are not adhering to any ethical practice.

    As an aside....we would search live records for conditions, information, whatever it is that we were changing code for and then we would copy off patient files to our test region because they would meet criteria we were testing for.... but never, ever mess with live data.

    •  And it isn't just happening at one hospital (0+ / 0-)

      From the diarist's answers to other questions, it has been happening at a hospital in another state (with unordered meds and med supplies being delivered to the partner's sister's house) and with airline reservations.

      I could understand one organization being stupid but three? I'm so curious about what is going on here!

      •  If the medical places are using Epic, as of late (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ExpatGirl, sturunner

        2009 there was NO version control on the software, on any environment.  Epic also insisted upon having something like 1 production, 5 test and 5 training regions.  We had constant problems with updates occurring, or not, on the different regions.  The institution was intelligent enough to limit the access to the production region.  The problem was that each region looked exactly the same in the framework and variables used.  I know that a few months after going live a programmer accidently took down the radiology department for a full day because he thought he was in the test region vs the production.

        Now, the airlines is another thing....  I can see it happening in the medical because the field is pretty narrow on third party vendors for EMR formats so "they" don't feel the need to 'protect' the stuff (and charge boatloads for 'maintenance' and other crap).  One of the things that Epic touts is the ability to interact with other providers.  So, it is entirely possible that the hospital trainee was being taught how to order equipment/stuff for their patients and had the order actually sent to the off site provider.  Once Epic went live where I worked, I never saw a prescription sheet again, it was all electronic with the medication supplier.

      •  One sister decided she should take a look at her (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        records again. As she doesn't se a doctor often, she doesn't check her records often. So, a quick visit to her doctor yesterday revealed more than 600 different entries into her file. For every sort of ailment imaginable. This is the sister receiving medical supplies/drugs.

        This is a problem within the extended family, not just affecting three sisters. The last name is being used in data entry training. This sister's first name begins with "A" and when coupled with the last name forms a complete sentence, however short.

        religion is the smile on a dog...

        by lbl1162 on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 05:10:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Get a lawyer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and file a suit for negligence and reckless endangerment.  It's not about getting money or a judgment.  It's about getting the Admin's attention so that they really REALLY flag this and get their records straight.  What you're dealing with is routine bureaucracy.  You tell one office; they fix it on the current records they have access to.  Then somebody does a backup or restore for the entire organization from the old copy and BINGO, the crazy crap is in there again.  If you take legal action, they will send it to the central IT office and actually do a real scrub.  Otherwise, you're just going to be filling and refilling the same leaky bucket.

    And people wonder why I resist electronic medical records.  I'VE WORKED WITH THEM.  Database people, like scientists, conserve data by reflex.  They simply won't let anything go unless you forcibly smash their fingers open with a sledgehammer.

  •  Get copies of the messed up records as the exist. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sturunner, denise b

    You always have the right to get copies of your medical records.  The hospital can charge "reasonable" copying fees in some states, I think, but nothing crazy.  If not, then it might help if you know a cooperative doctor who can make the request.  With copies discreetly saved in a folder, any meeting with the hospital can go smoothly.  If they're honest, then they will show your messed up records and show you (a) how the records will be fixed ASAP, and (b) how the IT staff will make sure this never ever happens to you again, upon pain of CEO displeasure & potential jail time.  Then you get those promises in writing because this is their second screw-up.  If they're dishonest, they will show you your cleaned up records and say "what error?" or if they're only interested in CYA, say "we fixed it, little lady, don't worry your pretty little head", whereupon you bring out your FUBAR copy and upon pain of major federal HIPAA hassle get those promises in writing.

  •  Maybe you could enlist (0+ / 0-)

    the help of a local newspaper or tv station. They might love a story like this. So many intractable consumer problems seem to be miraculously simple to clear up once the tv advocate gets hold of them.

    Definitely I'd start by getting copies of all the records and identifying every error. Then supply the corrections and demand an explanation for how they happened and a plan for getting them stopped and fixed.

    I worked for a health insurer. HIPAA violations were a really big no-no. There can be very large fines.

    We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

    by denise b on Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 08:02:48 PM PDT

  •  Start low-tech. Type up your medical history from (0+ / 0-)

    Day 0, listing all diseases, operations, allergies, doctors, specialists, phone numbers, medications, insurance companies, medical conditions of relatives, and anything else that an ER doc would need to know about you. Both spouses carry a printed copy AND a memory stick with the word processing document. This may seem like overkill but it's only your future health at stake because someone gives you a shot of penicillin.

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