I-Team 10: Patients losing patience
Posted at: 11/28/2012 5:21 PM
| Updated at: 11/28/2012 5:49 PM
By: Brett Davidsen | WHEC.com
I-Team 10 is hearing from patients trying to retrieve their medical records after their doctor closed her practice. The doctor is in Livingston County and patients of Dr. Kimberly Gibson-Berry say they were surprised to learn she was stepping away from her practice. Some are now expressing frustration in trying to get their records from her.
First, your records are actually the property of your physician, but patients are entitled to a copy of them upon written request. The doctor then has ten days to comply. But some patients of Dr. Kimberly Gibson-Berry say they've asked for their records, but haven't heard anything.
Jessy Gonzales spends his free time working on this old car in his garage. He'd rather be earning money and says he could if he could get his personal medical records.
Gonzales said, "I need to go back into the working force and I have a job pending. I had to go see an endocrinologist because I’m insulin driven and I want to drive a truck. I need all my medical records for at least the six years that I’ve been seeing her."
Problem is, he can't get in touch with his physician. Dr. Kimberly Gibson-Berry closed her practice in Mount Morris in September, leaving many of her former patients scrambling to retrieve their records.
Leah Walker said, "I called her office to make an appointment because I had strep throat and the numbers was disconnected."
Leah Walker says she had a difficult time getting a doctor to see her without her medical files.
Walker said, "I see a counselor multiple times throughout the winter and I have to have a referral for that so the frustration was getting my new referral for the winter season."
Before she closed, Dr. Gibson-Berry did post this notice in the local Pennysaver. It tells patients where to mail or fax requests for their files. For $20, she offers to put the records on a CD.
Nancy Adams said, "Putting something in a Pennysaver is something nice to do, but actually you're required to notify the patient in writing."
News10NBC asked Monroe County Medical Society Director Nancy Adams what happens to a patient's records when a doctor closes shop.
Nancy Adams said, "They are required to maintain those records and make them accessible to the patients for six years from the last date of service."
Adams says when doctors decide to leave their practice, they are supposed to give patients 30 days proper notice in the form of a letter. Walker and Gonzales say they never received one.
News10NBC went to Gibson-Berry’s home in Dansville, but neighbors say the family hasn't been around in awhile and appear to be in the process of moving. At the front door, News10NBC found a note left by Jessy Gonzales.
Gonzales said, "We kind of miss her and we're worried about her but the fact that she's never told us where we can pick up our records or anything has a little bit of the people kind of angry and disappointed."
Adams says there are a few things you can do to re-create your medical files if a doctor is unresponsive.
Adams said,"Get the medication list from your pharmacy. Hand that to your new doctor because that's going to be a pretty accurate description of the medications you are taking."
Walker says she just learned Tuesday that her records finally arrived at her new doctor's practice. But says it's been a frustrating two months.
Walker said,"These doctors take an oath of taking care of people and we trust them with our lives and our health and she just disappeared."
I-Team 10 talked with Dr. Gibson-Berry's husband. He says she did send out a written notice to all her patients alerting them she was closing her office. He says she feels badly about any delays, but is single-handedly trying to process requests for records as quickly as possible.
To request records, you can send a fax to 585-851-8672 or mail a request to PO Box 75. Conesus, NY 14435.
Mr. Berry says patients need to have a new doctor lined up and fill out the appropriate HIPAA forms before the records can be forwarded.
Mr. Berry says his wife just chose not to practice medicine anymore and part of that is motivated by tending to a sick family member.
I Team 10 also contacted the NY Health Department, which issued the following statement:
When a patient or physician cannot access a patient's medical records, the physician should use their clinical judgment to determine whether to take a new medical history from the patient and then provide treatment and care based on this new medical history. Patients may also file a complaint with the Department's Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). According to public health law (section 18.2e), a physician may charge up to .75 cents per page for medical records.
To discuss filing a misconduct complaint against a physician, physician assistant, or specialist assistant, contact the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, NYS Department of Health, Riverview Center 150 Broadway, Suite 355 Albany, New York 12204-2719. Phone: 518-402-0836 or 1-800-663-6114. All complaints are kept confidential.