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I used to think it was kind of amusing that obviously intelligent doctors have the worst handwriting of any other genre on the planet. Can you imagine if they were still in med school and had to hand write a 20 page thesis on something. The instructor would probably just count the pages and give them an A if they got the number right.

I’m over the amusing part now. If I were the King I would make it illegal for physicians to hand write notes in medical records. If they couldn’t handle entering a report in a computer they would be forced to tape everything that is said in an exam room and dictate any thoughts after the fact. Then one of us people who can’t remove kidneys, but can type, could put a readable, accurate record together.

Life insurance underwriters review medical records as a routine part of their job and are probably better than most at reading the horrid doctor scratchings. But there are a lot of times when things aren’t clear or readable, or it looks like it says one thing and that wasn’t what the doctor intended it to say. The underwriter is forced to go with their best guess in some cases and in far too many cases they have to have us agents go back to a client and ask them to talk to the doctor and get a clarification. They will not call the doctor to clarify anything. This is important to know. Underwriters don’t talk to doctors. If it can’t be clarified through the proposed insured’s interaction with the doctor, it can very well be declined or postponed until the information in question is fully explained.

The next problem comes when you ask your doctor to explain, or Caduceus forbid, correct something in your records. Let me share with you an example from today about how this goes and this example worked better than most in that the doctor actually did something. An underwriter noted that a client’s records mentioned DVT, deep vein thrombosis, and the underwriter was asking for additional information. I asked the client to get the doctor to explain in a memo and the doctor wrote, “The dictation on 10/19/10 stated the patient had a DVT or deep vein thrombosis. This was not accurate. Please call my office if you have any questions regarding this matter.”

Another area where medical records can fail you when applying for life insurance is in what is called your social history. Remember the first time you saw a doctor and you had to fill out forms about all the diseases you don’t have, your family history and whether you smoke or do illicit drugs? That goes into your social history in your records. Every time you see that doctor the social history is repeated, simply pulled forward. Unless you tell the doctor that something has changed, for instance you quit smoking, that will never show up in your social history. So, even if you quit smoking several years ago and you apply for life insurance, when the underwriter sees your social history they are going to either approve you at very high smoking rates or ask you to clarify why your medical records don’t match what you put on your application. 🙁

Life insurance underwriters view medical records as a factual representation of your medical history. The problem is that, not unlike credit reports, the majority of medical records are strewn with errors. People apply for insurance and only then do they find out what doctors have said in their records.

Bottom line. I should have just cut to the chase with this post and told everyone, again, to get a copy of your medical records and know what’s in them. Just trying to make sense of them will drive most people insane and the errors you find will astound you. And when the doctor won’t correct the errors, well, it’s just not pretty for you, the valued patient. But persist. Errors in medical records can cause you to be declined for life insurance or pay far more than you need to.