My wife is a nurse and I’ve often fussed with her about how inaccurate medical records can be. She doesn’t disagree with the general poor condition of medical records, but offered up the medical community’s offense as their defense.

When she was still in school and in every hospital and clinic she’s worked in they’ve drilled into her, “if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen”. So in other words, don’t tell me you gave that person 100mg of such and such unless it’s also in their chart or medical record. Otherwise it didn’t happen.

This CYA approach is just prudent behavior, but unfortunately it has another side to it, “if it’s written down then it did happen”. Yah, OK, so what’s wrong with that? Well, what’s wrong with that is that if the information isn’t transcribed correctly or if it’s inaccurate or if it happens to just be what came out of the wandering mind of some shrink, er, sorry, doctor of psychiatry, then it’s there for every insurance company or future doctor to misconstrue.

I know that in the life insurance business if there is something in the medical records then it is considered to be the gospel truth unless it is over ridden by some other information also in the records. The client can fuss and argue that the information is just not accurate, but unless they can produce something to the contrary, it remains true and can and will be used against you in underwriting.

So a couple of things. First, insist on the right to review your medical records annually. For a lot of you this may mean reading one page and moving on. For many it will mean reading through 50 or more pages. If something is in error, bring it up to the doctor immediately and insist on an entry in your record acknowledging the error and correcting the information.

If you have a lot going on medically you might consider asking for the right to review notes before they are entered into your record. Catching an error when it is fresh is much easier to deal with.

Second, just answer the questions and don’t delve into story telling. They will write down everything you say.

Errors in medical records keep people from getting insurance they need, completely sometimes and other times just not in a timely manner. Everyone makes a big deal about checking your credit report, and you probably should, but consider the damage that can be done by medical records and give the same weight to monitoring them.

Bottom line. For better or worse, you are what’s in your medical records according to life insurance underwriters. Know what’s there and avoid nasty surprises like being declined.

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