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Edith’s records in the nursing home said that she was in a wheelchair and needed two aides in order to engage in any activities, such as getting dressed or eating. That had been true in the first week or two after she’d been discharged from the hospital, but it hadn’t been true since then. It was now three months since Edith had landed in the nursing home, but her daughter Alice found that the records still said that she couldn’t function at all on her own.

What difference did it make? Nights and weekends, the nursing home tended to have transient caretakers. They might only be there for a few days, sent from a temporary help agency. If they relied on the records, they would constantly be telling Edith to sit down and wait for help, interfering with her every move and seriously upsetting her, night after night, weekend after weekend. What kind of life is that? Alice got the staff to correct the records, buying her mother some peace, independence, and privacy.

Your medical records might have errors in them, too. A previous column explained how to get your medical records (see for specific instructions by state). Once you have them, it’s useful to check them for mistakes. To do that, it helps to understand what constitutes an error and what doesn’t. Examples of entries in your medical records that would not be considered mistakes:

Examples of entries in your medical records that would, in fact, be considered mistakes:

If you find errors in your medical records -- a common situation -- it may be important to correct the errors to prevent doctors who you see in the future from drawing completely erroneous conclusions about you and your medical conditions and needs.

See for details about how to correct your medical records in each state in which those records were created. Generally, the following guidelines will apply.

First, the only doctor who can correct an error in your records is the one who created it. If Doctor A created medical records with an error in them and then sent copies of your file to Doctors B, C and D, there is no point in asking Doctor B, C, or D to correct the record. They can’t touch it. It will be necessary to figure out that the error came from Doctor A, and ask him to address it.

Second, you might be surprised to learn that no one will ever remove an erroneous entry from your records. For legal reasons, once a record is created, it is as if it is cast in stone. The best that can be done is to amend your record. When you amend your record, a statement is added to your record explaining what is wrong in the record and what the correct information is.

Third, to amend your record, you will need to put your request in writing.

Fourth, when you write your request, it is best to write the very language that you want your doctor to put into the medical record. Of course, it needs to be reasonable and appropriate to the situation. For example, it won’t help to write, “You didn’t listen to me at all the last time I was in. You need to change my medical record and take back those things you said I told you, because I didn’t say any of that.”

It is more useful to write, “I ask that you amend your notes from my visit to you on September 23th, 2011. Your notes say that I said that I had insomnia, stomach aches and diarrhea every day for the preceding two months. Please add the following statement to my records: “The patient notes that she did not say that she had had insomnia, a stomach ache and diarrhea every day for the preceding two months. She notes that she said that she had had these symptoms for a total of two days in the preceding month and that they resolved on their own without any treatment.”

Fifth, it is not enough to ask that your records be amended simply because they are wrong. It is typically required that you explain why you believe the error needs to be addressed.

In this example, for instance, you might say, “I would like you to amend my record because I am concerned that other doctors who see those records in the future may conclude that I have some serious chronic gastrointestinal problem that needs treatment -- when the symptoms I had were short-lived and went away on their own.”

Steps to amend your records are similar to steps to obtain your records:

Once your doctor has amended your records, you are free to ask him to send copies of the amended records to specific doctors you name who you believe received the erroneous information.