In 2009, Congress provided funding to speed up the switch to electronic medical records. It was believed that this format allows patients greater access to their records while reducing the possibility of medical malpractice. However, as many Arizona patients have likely discovered, accessing a complete record of their own health care is often problematic.
In an effort to ease the process, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule that would prevent information blocking. The senate will begin hearings on the new rule, which some critics claim does not go far enough in ensuring that patients will have access to their complete record, including documentation of every time their records have been accessed by care providers and when edits have been made. The rule would mandate that patients are entitled to an electronic copy of their records at no cost to them.
However, the rule does not include the audit logs, which can prove to be a critical piece of information, especially in the event that a patient suffered negative consequences due to mistakes or other errors on the part of medical providers. The director of Medicare and Medicaid Services stated that patients should be permitted access to their complete record, including the audit logs. The rule does address the so-called "gag" clause that software companies include in their programs to prevent users from discussing software glitches. These glitches can lead to patients suffering injuries from medical errors.
Another problem that has not been addressed is the fact that separate operating systems cannot transmit information across different platforms, which can impede electronic access to records. Though the new rule may facilitate access to records for an estimated 125 million patients, it may not reduce the risk of medical malpractice in many situations. Arizona residents who have been harmed by medical errors may have a basis to pursue recovery of their monetary damages through a malpractice claim.