It’s been a rough few weeks for patients and family physicians in the Cheboygan area. As it spiraled into bankruptcy court and abruptly closed its doors, Cheboygan Memorial Hospital was taking with it the medical records of every patient it had ever seen, potentially disrupting continuity of care for former CMH patients.
Several CMH patients turned to their family physicians – their most trusted medical advisors – for help with their continuing care. And in the process of treating those patients, the physicians asked the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians for help in putting those medical records in the hands of the people who needed them.
We at MAFP were able to leverage our resources, including our valuable relationships with legislators at the state and federal levels, to help draw attention and demand a response to this crisis. We made advocacy calls to the Bankruptcy Courts, and obtained legal opinions to refute the claim by the former hospital CEO that these medical records were the hospital’s property (and not the patients’).
We are happy to report that the immediate medical records issue has been resolved, and that patients have been recognized as the owners of their medical records. The court has put in place a process whereby patients and physicians can now get the records they need to continue treatment.
Unfortunately, it is likely this will not be the only hospital or treatment facility that goes bankrupt, and then tries to take the medical records with it (or attempts to hold on to records as part of a negotiation strategy). We can all look at this event as a reminder of the challenging and complex times we live in and the critical need for proactive engagement and a strong voice.
Our goal is to support you and your practice in taking care of patients, and that includes helping to ensure your access to patient records across treatment sites when necessary. MAFP will be taking a closer look at this issue, and working with other organizations to establish a procedure for making patient medical records available to patients and treating physicians whenever a hospital or health facility unexpectedly closes.