[Editor’s Note: This is a sponsored post. -Jenna]
Here at Postpartum Progress, we believe that educating and empowering women and families to better care for themselves can transform maternal mental health care. We believe that women battling postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are best served and cared for when clinicians treat them as partners and are given agency when making decisions about their health and well-being. In fact, one of the most valuable things I have learned by being a member of this amazing community is how to advocate for myself as a patient.
For many of us, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or psychosis is an introduction to the world of mental health care. We navigate the world of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and community health centers, all while struggling to simply make it through the day. We try different treatments and therapies, medications and self-care strategies.
We visit three different clinics before finding a counselor who really feels like a good fit, and we change doctors when the one that accepted our insurance suddenly moves offices. We carefully budget for the expenses our treatments and care cost our families.
There is so much logistical work involved in seeking treatment for a PMAD like postpartum depression, and it can be overwhelming and is often overlooked.
Through your stories—our stories—Postpartum Progress has taught me the importance of seeing myself as capable. My input is valuable and I deserve to be heard when speaking with my mental health care providers.
A crucial part of staying informed about and central to my own care is making sure I have access to my records. By owning and controlling my information, I can be sure that all of my clinicians are communicating. I can easily loop in new doctors and can ask better questions to understand the diagnoses and treatments we have decided to try.
Information is power, but it’s not always easy for patients to access.
I recently had a great conversation with Kevin Grassi, MD, one of the founders of PatientBank, about my experiences and how owning my medical records is an important part of how I advocate for myself as a mental health patient.
PatientBank is a tool to help patients gather, store, and share their medical records. Their mission is to empower patients by giving them easy access to their medical information. You submit a request online through your PatientBank account, and they do all the work to request and digitize your records. These digital files are combined into summaries that you own and can share with your care teams and family members.
We spoke about a shift in healthcare toward patient-centered care, the value in patient-owned medical records, and about some of the concerns and questions our Warrior Mom community might have about PatientBank.
Susan: Why is access to medical records so important for patients?
Dr. Grassi: At PatientBank, we believe that access to medical records is about empowerment. Taking control of your health begins with owning your health information. This is especially true for patients who have been marginalized by a poor health care delivery system. Mental health certainly falls into this category.
Susan: Our Warrior Moms care very much about privacy, especially given the stigma they face every day as people dealing with mental health disorders. How does PatientBank guarantee that the records collected are safe, private, and secure?
Dr. Grassi: We use a company called Aptible. They’re experts in securing protected health information, and we follow best practices to make sure our servers are safe. We hired a group of hackers to see if they could break in when we first started working with the Yale-New Haven Health System. They spent a few days trying to break in and ended up writing a report raving about how secure we were.
Susan: What should patients know about how to best use medical records once they are collected and summarized? We love the idea of owning our own medical information and of being informed patients, but as mental health patients, we also worry that we might misunderstand or be upset by details included in mental health records. These are, after all, documents written by and for clinicians and doctors.
Dr. Grassi: There is a concern that reading the doctor’s assessment may lead to a strain in the therapeutic relationship or cause the patient distress. Because of this, doctors and care providers may choose not to release notes related to mental health if they feel there is potential for harm. However, I believe that there are very few, and specific, situations where a doctor should choose not to release mental health records. Most of the time the therapeutic goals of the doctor and patient with depression are aligned. Having access to medical records encourages engagement between doctors and patients. That is what we are striving for at PatientBank.
Susan: Health parity, or equity in health services, access to information, and treatment is an important part of the outreach we do at Postpartum Progress. How is PatientBank meeting the needs of underserved patients?
Dr. Grassi: We are happy to help out by providing additional codes to those in need. Patients can reach out through Postpartum Progress. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information)
PatientBank wants to support the Warrior Moms of Postpartum Progress with free requests for medical records. To get started, visit https://www.patientbank.us/. Create a free PatientBank account and request your medical records from your doctor or hospital. At checkout, enter this code for a free request: PostpartumProgress
You can collect your records from any hospital or doctor’s office in the country. PatientBank can help you collect your medical records from anywhere you have been for medical care. The trial code does not expire.
I had no idea this sort of service existed! I just ordered my files from my first psychiatrist. Excited and nervous to receive them. It was a traumatic experience with a terrible Doctor. So glad I can get the files without having direct contact with his office!