Thursday, May 5, 2016

Access to Your Dog's Medical Information: To Whom Do Your Dog's Records Belong?

Do you have a hard time acquiring your dog's labs and appointment notes? Or does your vet provide you a copy of everything readily?


Jasmine's vet keeps web-based medical records.

Online records are the best thing since sliced bread. I really loved having the constant full access to all medical information and discussions. Anything. Any time. Anywhere. I think all vets should use these.

We are still keeping those alive with me providing all information, updates and labs to keep them current.

Everything can be found in one place and it is easy to access. It was a life-saver when Cookie was getting her lump taken care of on our trip.

All I had to do was to log into the account and pull any information the local vet needed.

That resulted in a conversation on the subject and that's when the vet surprised me by saying that she wouldn't use these because for many of her clients she wouldn't want them to have access to the information. The argument she was making was that they would look up the information and self-treat their dogs.

While I can kind of see the point, I was quite taken aback.

It is true that some people might do something dumb with any given information. Some might just do something dumb without any information at all. Such as shoving vanilla yogurt in their dog's ears.

Would access to medical records really make that worse?

Somehow I don't think so. If you're going to go through all the trouble and expense of seeing your vet and doing the labs and diagnostics, wouldn't you just as well hear out their recommendation?

Yes, some people shouldn't have pets in the first place. Some people shouldn't even have a driver's license or a bank card. But I doubt that's the rule rather than an exception. I like to hope that most people are neither stupid or crazy.

"Medical records belong to the clinic, not the client or patient," the vet said.

The way she said it made it sound as if owners had no business seeing them. Ever.

Web-based records have worked for Jasmine's vet and his clients for a long time. Him and I were using them gladly to everybody's advantage.

There were, however, clinics where getting a copy of medical records, even if just to forward to a new vet, was like pulling teeth. And then all you got were two pages with a few scribbles on them. And that was for Jasmine who was at the vet every month ...

It begged the question whether the clinic held stuff back or whether that was really all they had on file ... ? And which would be worse?

When selecting a vet at our new location, access to all medical information for my dogs was one of my criteria.

It was a question number twelve out of thirty five. Clearly, something that is quite important to me.

The vet we chose doesn't have web-based records but have been providing me with copies of all information and lab results I wanted.

So whom do your dog's medical records belong to?

I loved Jasmine's vet's answer when I inquired about it, "Records do belong to the clinic, information in the records belongs to the patient-owner. Online records avoids this whole silly discussion."

I couldn't agree more. Online records are the best thing ever. And the above provided reason aside I wonder what prompts such attitude towards keeping pets' medical records a top secret.

One thing Jasmine's vet says web-based records provide is transparency.

I think that transparency is a wonderful thing, though I'm after access to my dogs' records simply for practical reasons. I think that if you do everything to your best ability and knowledge and are good at what you do, there is no reason not to be transparent about it. Moreover I believe that being transparent about potential mistakes is just as important.

Out of curiosity I went and asked a lawyer what the official rules about veterinary medical records are.

Here in Canada these rules are established provincially, in Ontario by the College of Veterinarians of Ontario.
"The law in Canada is that the vet actually owns the physical record so the vet owns the file and its contents but the client has a right to all the information so the client is entitled by law to get a copy of everything that is in the file but the vet can charge a fee for providing that."

I think it's kind of funny that the vet actually owns the information in the file but I don't really care who owns it as long as I have access to it. If they want to charge a fee, that's fine. Jasmine's vet charges $15 annually for access to the web-based records. And that's fine with me.

I mean, I pay for the appointment, I pay for the lab work, I want to have access to it. I think that's fair.

If I pay $300 for blood work, I want to be able to see what the damn thing says, right? More importantly, I like to read these things, understand them and discuss anything of concern. There were times when a vet called that lab work came back and everything is fine and I found anomalies I considered important enough to discuss. Haven't I seen the file I wouldn't know about them.

I also keep track of trends for some of the important values such as those pertaining to kidney or liver function. And if I haven't kept track of something and it came out funky, I can go back to the older results and include those values in my spreadsheet and see whether what is happening might be a fluke, acute situation or an actual trend.

One way or another, I want access to my dogs' medical records. Period.

I could not work with a vet who weren't willing to share these things with me. Or a vet who only collected two pages of scribbles over two years of monthly visits. Yeah, that was before I knew any better ...

Did you ever had a problem getting access to your dog's medical information?

Related articles:
Emailing With Your Vet And The Miracle Of Web-based Medical Records 
Looking For A New Veterinarian: Our List Of Questions

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