LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A cancer survivor has waited nearly a year for a copy of her medical records, prompting the I-Team to investigate what the law requires when it comes to releasing patient information.
“I don’t know if something is wrong, and I need to know,” Patricia Smith, 58, said in her Las Vegas home. Smith said she moved to southern Nevada in 2019 and soon learned she had breast cancer.
“My tumor was the size of an orange,” she said. It took her several tries to find a doctor who accepted her insurance and she was eventually paired with Angeles Medical Centers, a licensed nurse practitioner facility with two locations in the valley.
Smith visited an oncologist at Angeles Medical Centers’ North Las Vegas facility, she said. The oncologist removed one of her breasts. Soon after, the doctor left the practice.
Smith said she has been waiting for a copy of her medical history since.
“Since January,” she said. “I haven’t been able to get them.”
A website for Angeles Medical Centers shows no information — as if a website is a work in progress. There is no way to request records and no phone number.
Smith told the I-Team she has not made a written inquiry but has asked for her records over the phone several times.
“They said that something was wrong with the computer system,” Smith said about one call earlier this year. “It was down.”
In another call, Smith said she became upset when she repeatedly asked how to get her records.
“I told her, ‘I really need my records, you know? I have cancer. I don’t think you understand,’” Smith said about the phone call. “She goes, ‘Well, I know how you feel.’ And I’m like, ‘No you don’t know how I feel.’”
The I-Team tried calling Angeles Medical Centers three times. On the first try, our call was answered, but after a 4-minute hold, it was disconnected.
On the second try, the I-Team’s David Charns left a message with an employee who said a manager would return his call.
Several days later, during the third attempt, an employee said all questions had to go through the facility’s owner who was out of state.
“We don’t want to have happen what this person is saying is happening to her,” Republican Assem. Robin Titus said. Titus is not only on the Assembly’s Health and Human Services Committee, but she is also a doctor.
Titus said she has worked to clarify the law when it comes to providing records to patients, whether it’s from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or another provider.
“When it says the word ‘doctor,’ it also means ‘nurse practitioner’ and ‘physician assistant,’ so now they are under that umbrella as a provider,” Titus said, adding the state requires a medical records request be filled after 10 days. While the law states patient requests be in writing, Titus suggested a verbal request should be considered legitimate, saying patients often fill out release forms before a request is even made. She said the written component is often for patient security, which records holders often have other means to verify.
The I-Team found the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners, which oversees doctors, and the Nevada State Board of Nursing, which oversees nurses and nurse practitioners, have separate regulations written in their respective sections of state law about records and their release.
The 10-day record law does not apply to nurse practitioners like Angeles Medical Centers, according to the nursing board, but a third section of state law, titled Healing Arts, puts all practitioners – doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners – under the same requirement of providing records within 10 days and a copy within 30 days.
“Those records do not belong to that clinic, nor do they belong to the doctor to perform our procedure,” Smith said. “They belong to me. My insurance paid for them.”
While Smith has seen a primary care doctor, no oncologist will see her without a copy of her records, she said.
“What does that mean for your care?” Charns asked Smith.
“I’m not getting any,” she said.
A representative for the nursing board suggested filing a complaint to remedy the issue.