IVF patients understand that their chances of success to a large extent depend on the competence f their doctor. This is why they go to great pains to do their homework, to try to find the best possible doctor for their treatment. This is extremely important, and it's good that patients are demanding and assertive during their search. However, during and after the IVF cycle, I am very disappointed when patients don't insist on copies of their medical records. I still find it hard to understand why this is so. It's important to have documentation - whether you're talking about your bank account or your credit card statement or your medical treatment. Now most patients will routinely expect copies of medical records when they have even a simple appendectomy - but somehow they don't seem to apply the same set of standards to their IVF treatment ! I still am not sure why this is so.

Most hospitals will routinely and proactively provide discharge summaries whenever a patient is admitted in the hospital, but a lot of IVF clinics in India still don't seem to follow this routine. One possibility is that they want to hold onto their patient - and it's much easier to retain a patient if you keep all her your medical records, because this makes it much more likely that the patient will come back to you, rather than go through the hassle of finding another doctor and start a new medical file at a new clinic.

It's also true that IVF clinics expect that IVF treatment is an ongoing process, which is why they will retain copies of the IVF medical records with them, so that in case the cycle fails, all the patient needs to do is come back and they have precise documentation of what treatment they have offered her. This is all well and good, but still does not explain why clinics do not give a copy of the treatment cycle to the patient routinely and proactively after the embryo transfer.

I cannot understand why patients aren't a lot more assertive and why they don't demand copies of their records. When I ask patients why they did not get a copy of their IVF records, I get a wide variety of lame excuses.

My clinic keeps all the records
My clinic does not provide records to patients
This is their routine practice - no patient gets records
I didn't ask for my records because I would not be able to understand them, so why should I bother
My clinic policy is not to give records
I didn't know I could get a copy of my records
Aren't the IVF records the property of the clinic ?

None of these are good reasons at all.

All good IVF clinics proactively and routinely provide copies of the IVF records to the patient, so they can show the patient that she has been given good quality medical care. This is in everyone's best interest - the patient's, as well as the clinics. Even if the cycle fails and the patient seeks a second opinion, high quality documentation proves that good quality medical care was provided, and this enhances the reputation and the standing of the IVF clinic in the medical community !

If you ask for a copy of your records, and you get a run-around or pushback, remember that you have a legal right to a copy of a record of all your medical treatments - including IVF treatment ! If the clinic is reluctant to provide copies for whatever reason, it's a good idea to make this request in writing, to ensure that your request is not ignored - the squeaky wheel gets the grease !

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.

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