Why patients should own their medical images?
Despite doctors reluctantly providing medical images directly to patients - there is a real need for patients to insist on access and control of these images. After all, the patient is the central hub for all of the images, records, diagnoses, that relate to him or her. So, it is completely logical that the patient would be THE appropriate repository for all information related to her own medical history. Otherwise, her medical record may be incomplete which may impact prescribed treatment.
If you're not convinced, consider the following:
1) Treatment from multiple physicians
With increasing medical specialization, seldom does a patient get treated exclusively by only one physician. And, patients who relocate or travel may consult doctors in multiple geographies. If your imaging does not follow you, then important history and information may be lost. Images prescribed by one specialist likely have implications for the patient's overall treatment. Since it's not easy for doctors to get access to images prescribed by other doctors some just ignore them prior to treatment.
2) Second opinions
It’s your right to be able to seek a second opinion. Patients who want a second opinion may find it awkward to ask their primary physician for access to their images at the risk of them feeling they are being second guessed. This may lead to patients missing out on obtaining other ideas about their treatment.
3) Unnecessary Radiation
There are many instances when doctors who don't have immediate access to prior images simply order a re-image - subjecting the patient to unnecessary additional radiation and costs (duplicate images may not be covered by insurance). When physicians are reluctant to "accept" the images that were recorded or read by someone other than themselves, they risk subjecting the patient to this unhealthy consequence.
4) Emergency Treatment
In the unfortunate event of an emergency, perhaps while the patient is away from home or where treatment is urgent, delays in retrieving images could be the difference between life and death.
It’s your right to be able to control your care. Patients should demand access and control of their own images to ensure their entire history is always considered, minimizing radiation and speeding treatment and ensuring the best care possible.
This is the second blog in a series that began with who owns the medical images. Next time, we will explore whether doctors are willing to support the patient’s demands.