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How (and why) to get a copy of your records after bad foot surgery.


A common scenario

You notice some rubbing on the outside of your large toe.  You go to your doctor, who refers you to the local podiatrist.

You go in to see the podiatrist, who tells you that you have a bunion, and says the best way to fix it is for him to “shave off a little bit of bone.”  “Don't worry,” he says, “you'll be back to your regular routine in a week or two.

Fast forward six weeks.  Your large toe is now “floating” several inches from the rest of your foot.  You cannot wear shoes, and on top of that you're experiencing significant pain.  You've been back to the podiatrist several times, but he's been dismissive, and has told you “it's healing,” or “give it time.”

Except the last time.  At that visit he suggested that he might need to do another surgery, but not to worry, because this one will fix things.

At this point you become fed up.  You go for a second opinion, and are told that not only would a second surgery be appropriate, it's your only option and it may very well limit your ability to run, hike or do anything active in the future.  You can only stare while the podiatrist shakes his head about what happened to you.

What do you do?

First, understand that this is much more common than you think.  We hear from people all the time who have been through nearly this exact scenario. 

And many are furious, because what was a minor problem has turned, quite literally, into a nightmare. 

The first thing you may want to do is get a copy of your medical records from the podiatrist.

Why?  Two reasons.

First, the earlier you can get a copy of the record from the podiatrist, the earlier you can put a freeze on what's written in those records.  While it's no secret that many physicians dictate notes and later go back to “clean them up”, the podiatry world is notorious for poor and often incomplete record keeping.  You want to get a copy of your record as soon as possible, so that you are able later to go back and challenge the doctor on any changes that he made to the record.

Second, the process to determine whether you have a potential lawsuit for podiatry malpractice starts with a review of the records.  The sooner your lawyer has them to review, the sooner he or she can make a decision about the merits of your case. 

In a podiatry malpractice lawsuit in New York, attorneys must certify that they have reviewed the medical records with a podiatrist, who has confirmed to them that there is reason to believe that malpractice occurred.  They do this by reviewing the records and discussing the case.

So how do I get the records?

There are two options for getting the records – requesting them yourself and having your lawyer make the request.

We recommend, at first, that you get a copy yourself as soon as possible.  First, as we mentioned earlier, it's good to have an early copy of the record.  Second, it is often quicker for a patient to get a copy of their own medical record.  Practically, medical offices tend to become defensive when they receive a medical request from a law firm, and it often takes longer to get a response.

Even if you do obtain your own records, however, once we are consulted to perform a review we will often obtain a copy for ourselves as well.  Why?  To be sure they match.

As for how you get the records, the process is pretty simple.  First, call the office and let them know that you'd like a copy of your chart.  You don't need to tell them why, and if they ask you you can simply tell them that you'd like a copy.  It's your legal right, and don't let them tell you otherwise. 

The office should provide you with a copy quickly after a request.  If they do not, however, you can fill out a HIPAA authorization, go to the office (or mail it in) and request your records.  Again, they have no choice but to comply.  An authorization may be found here.

Finally, if the podiatrist refuses to provide you with a copy of your records (a major red flag), reach out to a lawyer for help.  Our firm routinely hounds podiatry offices to provide records, because as we mentioned they have a legal obligation to provide them.

If you believe that you have been the victim of a bad foot surgery, don't hesitate to reach out today.

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