Elderly couple's medical-records plight sparks generosity from Maritimers
After seeing their story on CTV Atlantic Wednesday evening, dozens of people have reached out to support an elderly Nova Scotia couple who said they couldn't afford to access their health records.
When Grace and Wyman Cove of Amherst, N.S., visit their new doctor next month, they hope to bring their medical history with them.
When their doctor of 20 years closed his practice earlier this month, they were told they'd have to pay $309 to get their records.
After their story ran Wednesday, the company holding the records says it reached out to the Coves.
"When there is an issue with financial ability to pay, we always want to work with the patient to make sure that one way or the other, they get this record," said Elaine Eisen, the president and managing director of Record Storage and Retrieval Services (RSRS).
Since hearing the about the Coves' situation, dozens of people reached out to help, but the company holding the records says it is working with the family.
When it comes to medical files, the information belongs to the patients.
The files themselves belong to the doctor
When a doctor closes their practice, the information stays with the doctor or is transferred to a company like RSRS for safekeeping.
"We have a Personal Health Information Act in this province and it provides for privacy and confidentiality of medical records, but it also provides for access to those medical records and sets a fee schedule that physicians are able to charge," said privacy lawyer David Fraser.
It works out to being 20 cents a page and a rate of $12 per hour for the person who is providing the service.
Fraser says having access to digital copies of health records would cost less and could lead to a better quality of care.
"It simply leads to efficiency," Fraser said. "Electronic records, although it's more complicated to secure them, they are more secure than paper records."
Only 300 of Nova Scotia's 2,400 practicing doctors use the digital record-keeping system.
Right now, no new doctors can register because the province is looking for a new service provider to assist with electronic medical record keeping.
It's been a hectic 24 hours for the Cove family. They have been overwhelmed by people reaching out to help. The company says it's committed to working with the family, and the Coves say they are looking forward to having their records on hand when they see their new doctor.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Amy Stoodley.