It's been nearly a year since Jerry Cutshall has gotten the treatment he's needed.
“It’s been real frustrating because my wife and my daughter say I need somebody to talk to,” said Jerry.
The psychiatrist he was talking to passed away earlier this year, forcing Jerry to find a new one.
Jerry started calling other doctor's offices and realized he had another problem.
“They would say well you need to get your paperwork, you need to get your paperwork,” said Jerry. “And I would tell them I'm trying, I'm trying.”
Jerry's former doctor worked in an office by himself. Jerry still went ahead and left phone messages, hoping someone would get them.
He also stopped by only to find the office space had been leased to a new business.
“I called my lawyer and they didn't know he had passed and they started trying to help me,” said Jerry.
After several months went by and still no sign of his medical records, Jerry's next call was to 7 On Your Side.
Medical Attorney Ella Barbery says typically a doctor's office will notify patients before shutting down.
“Maybe either through a letter or newspaper ad, explain the situation and advising patients on how to go about requesting copies of the records,” said Barbery.
Otherwise it takes a little more legwork.
“A patient may need to contact the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners or the South Carolina Medical Association to see if they have any information on the doctor,” said Barbery. “Or perhaps contact the probate court to see if the personal representative had been appointed.”
For Jerry's case we had to take it a step further. To protect the privacy of the late doctor’s family and the security of the remaining medical records, we're not naming the doctor. But we tracked down his wife. She found Jerry's file and gave him a call.
“I had her send them to my family doctor,” said Jerry. “And then once I get established at the new psychiatrist, they can get together and send the paperwork.”
And Jerry can finally continue his treatment.
“I feel good about it. I feel good,” said Jerry.
South Carolina state law requires doctors to keep medical records for ten years after your last visit. For minors, records have to be kept for 13 years.
Barbery says there's no need for you to keep a copy of all of your medical records. But she says you may want to consider keeping copies of your child's immunization records so they’re readily available when they apply to college as a young adult.
If you need to track down your medical records, first contact the office where your doctor was practicing.
If the practice no longer exists, contact the South Carolina Medical Association online or by phone at (800) 327-1021.
You can also try the SC Board of Medical Examiners for help or to file a complaint in the matter. Click here or call (803) 896-4500.