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Physician as Scapegoat
The Rhode Island medical board erred in punishing Robert Eden, MD when digital medical record provider Allscripts deleted the medical records of his patients. If a state believes it should protect the medical records of its citizens, it should license companies like Allscripts and hold the company -- not the physician -- to whatever standard it establishes.
Physicians need medical records to document their own adherence to standard of care in the even of malpractice litigation. Dr. Eden will suffer enough from the inability to produce documentation that he met the standard of care if a patient sues him. This risk especially affects pediatricians like Eden, since the statute of limitations does not start until the patient reaches age 18.
Physicians may also rely on their patient charts for records of patient history and their own past treatment of the patient.
Patients themselves benefit most from the ability to provide records to new/other medical providers. The state should not hold the physician responsible for this burden.
This case demonstrates the benefit that would accrue to the patient if the patient maintained their own medical records. If Dr. Eden's patients had maintained their own records, they would have suffered no loss attributable to Eden. Any breach of contract would have occurred between the patient and Allscripts or other medical record company.
Another advantage, especially for young patients: They can maintain records from birth on. When medical providers must keep records, they also want to destroy those records as soon as possible to avoid the substantial costs of storage and maintenance, a cost which, again, the patient -- not the physician -- should bear. How far back do your own records go? Most medical providers destroy records after 3-10 years, except for pediatrics and depending on state law.