Caulkins Legislation to Provide Patients Better Access to their Own Medical Records

State Representative Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) has introduced his first bill of 2023 to protect Illinois residents by ensuring continuity of care and transparency in their health records. The bill is a response to concerns raised by Garrett Discovery, a digital forensic firm with a Healthcare Forensics division, who reported that patients are often unaware that their records have been changed, even after the date of care.

“After some research, I found that some Healthcare Providers are putting limitations in their medical record system to filter out alterations so that the patient never knows and sometimes this is done by those that are not practicing medicine,” said Rep. Caulkins. “The Cures Act did not address healthcare facilities altering records and failing to notify patients of those alterations. This bill aims to protect Illinois residents from this bad practice and improve patient access to their own medical records.”

The bill (HB 1137) sponsored by Rep. Caulkins addresses several key issues, including:

  1. Ensuring that accurate records are provided to patients
  2. Allowing patients to know if their records have been altered after the date of care, and for what reason
  3. Providing the legal system with stronger tools to punish those who alter records to cover up bad healthcare
  4. Requiring the release of audit trails and logs the show who accessed and altered a record and the substantive changes for accountability

Advocacy groups such as the Family Justice Resource Center have highlighted the importance of this issue, stating that they have encountered numerous cases in which hospitals violate HIPAA and HITECH by refusing to release records that show changes to a child’s medical records. By refusing to release records in a timely manner, hospitals make it difficult for parents to seek justice for their children.

Last year, the Illinois courts heard the Prieto v Rush University Medical Center case, a highly contested case where the plaintiff sought the full patient record and audit trail. After three years of litigation, it was finally revealed that the record had been altered and audit data was lost. This case has resonated throughout the medical community, and Illinois must be proactive in addressing this issue.

The 21st Century Cures Act, passed in 2016, directed the Department of Health and Human Services Office of National Coordinator to create a process for the public to report claims of possible information blocking by healthcare providers. Since 2016 thousands of complaints have been lodged that healthcare providers were restricting access to patient records.