It’s always a hassle to change physicians. Relaying your medical history to a new doctor doesn’t just mean telling them about past diagnoses, you also have to provide past medical records. Unfortunately, former patients of Family Dermatology in Laurys Station and Reading, Pennsylvania are unable to locate their medical files since the clinic closed in August 2016.
Pennsylvania Dermatology’s Chief Operating Officer, Andy Frankel told The Morning Call that transfer patients are still waiting on records to be sent in. The patients have no other option but to verbally communicate their medical history to their new practitioner, which is not always as accurate or thorough as a traditional medical record.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Pennsylvania law, patients must receive their medical records within 30 days of request. This goes for all specialties, except in certain mental health cases. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states that health care professionals can determine a patient’s accessibility to their records, if the files are “likely to endanger the life or physical safety of an individual or another person.”
Primarily based in Georgia, Family Dermatology is a chain of clinics. They previously operated 21 offices in Maryland, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, but were forced to close nearly all centers due to financial problems. According to The Morning Call, the delayed medical records are due to the fact that there’s only one staff member organizing the process. "We're not trying to prevent people from getting their records," Family Dermatology’s attorney, Michael Smith said. "It really just comes down to manpower."
However, Pennsylvania is not the only state where former Family Dermatology patients are being left in the dark. The Maryland State Board of Physicians recently filed a case against Paula Nelson, MD, Family Dermatology’s owner for failing to provide records for three patients. In Georgia, there’s one patient whose medical records are still in limbo.