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Trisha Torrey

Open Notes and What Else is New?

By December 26, 2011

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In mid-2010, the Annals of Internal Medicine began a survey asking patients whether they would access their medical records if they were made available through internet access, and asking physicians whether they saw benefits in providing "Open Notes" (open access to the patients' medical record) to patients.  At the time, I told you about the survey, and encouraged you to participate.

The results were issued last week.  YES!  WE PATIENTS WOULD ACCESS OUR RECORDS IF GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY!  Further, that NOT ALL DOCTORS THINK THAT'S A GOOD IDEA! Then, the Annals tried to make big news out of it - as if anyone was surprised?

Perhaps the only surprise is the massive number of patients who said yes, they would want to access their records - 92% to 97%. There seemed to be little or no difference among age groups, education, or health status.

The doctors' reactions were no surprise either, and depended on who they were most focused on.  Those doctors who did think it was a good idea felt that easy patient access to Open Notes would improve communication and help to educate their patients. They were focused on their patients' needs, as they should be.

Among those physicians who didn't want to share, their reasons were all about their own needs:  the patient would require too much time during appointments for answering questions, and patients would have questions between appointments. A few even suggested that Open Notes would result in more lawsuits. Then, a portion of them tried to make it sound like they were concerned about their patients' needs.  E.g. patients would worry (as if they don't worry if they can't look at records?), or patients won't understand the results (as if we really understand them when delivered by the doctor?).

What always amazes me when it comes to doctors and their "concerns" for patients ("they might worry more!" or "patients won't understand the results!") - is that those concerns are so paternalistic. As if they are trying to protect us from something.  In fact, I think what they are really trying to protect themselves - for those reasons outlined above.  They may even be fooling themselves.

Bottom line for us patients?  As we have repeated many times - we want access.  The GREAT MAJORITY of us want easy access and would use it.  We want to know what official information looks like and we even want to know what the more unofficial (sometimes nasty and irreverant) notes say about us, too.

Learn more about the survey and the results from the Annals of Internal Medicine.  And continue to encourage your doctor to share your records - to provide easy access to you.

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Photo Škokouu -iStockphoto.com

Comments
December 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm
(1) sara says:

Last year I found out during my course of treatment that my doctor thought I had certain symptoms that I had never mentioned and that he thought I was on a new medication, which I wasn’t. Luckily what I had was not life-threatening and things turned out okay as far as I know. However, now I am going to try to ask the doctor to read back to me what he writes down about what I said (before his notes get transcribed and copied multiple times). And, I’ve always believed that patients should have the right to see their medical records–seems like an obvious right to be able to double-check what is being written about you. Thanks for your wonderful work, Tricia, in keeping us up-to-date on what is going on in the medical world from a patient’s point-of-view.

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