WRHA fees for photocopies called too high
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/07/2019 (1405 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It can cost Manitobans hundreds of dollars to access their own medical records, due to photocopying fees more than four times the market rate.
An Ontario woman went public earlier this month after she was charged $1,100 to get her late father’s electronic hospital records. Ontario charges 25 cents per page after the first 20 pages; Manitoba charges 50 cents per page.
For a 51-day hospital stay, Colleen Bytheway was quoted around $250 to get her a copy of her late father’s chart, which she wanted to get to the bottom of serious concerns she had with his care.
“Everybody should have easy access to their chart — it’s your chart,” she said. “In a perfect world, it should all be open, it should all be transparent… It shouldn’t even be questioned, it should be easy.”
Bytheway, a former nurse who teaches nursing students at the University of Manitoba, said she knew how much more information she could get from reading the chart, compared to what she was hearing from hospital staff.
“Even when you ask questions, there’s just an attitude, which is really unfortunate, of ‘don’t say too much’… So we really, really need to break down those barriers,” Bytheway said.
Because of her medical experience, Bytheway found the right people to ask to get the fee waived.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the health region doesn’t track the amounts paid to access records.
“They shouldn’t be profiting from copying your chart. I can understand a cost-recovery charge,” Bytheway said, citing a four cents/page rate at office supply retailer Staples.
“It’s a barrier. Can you imagine someone who’s financially strapped, having to decide whether they pay rent or get access to their chart? It shouldn’t be that way.”– Colleen Bytheway
She said for someone who stayed in the hospital five or six months, the photocopying charge could run into the thousands of dollars. For diagnostic scans, the fee is $6 for a copy.
“It’s a barrier. Can you imagine someone who’s financially strapped, having to decide whether they pay rent or get access to their chart? It shouldn’t be that way,” Bytheway said.
The Centre for Patient Protection has been calling for the elimination of all fees for hospital charts and medical records for years, the founder of the Toronto organization said.
“It is one of the most common complaints that people come to the centre with,” Kathleen Finlay said. “Oftentimes, (hospitals) are concerned about what people will find in those records.”
Finlay said when she got access to her mother’s chart in hospital, she was able to notice a medication that was causing problems. “The care team will tell you one thing, the chart will often tell you something quite different.”
Data collected in 2016 by the Canadian Institute for Health Information show one patient among every 18 hospitalizations will experience harm that was preventable.
Finlay said it’s integral patients and families have full access to medical records, not only to spot errors but to know what’s going on and inform themselves.
Bytheway noted if her father’s records were available digitally, there wouldn’t need to be a copying fee.
“If we were in the 21st century, we’d have electronic charts, that people should be able to access easily,” she said.
This spring, Alberta launched a digital health record portal for residents.
Updated on Thursday, August 1, 2019 9:53 AM CDT: Clarifies that Ontario case concerned electronic records