Doctors, News & Research, Society

Reading Your Doctor’s Notes

Although patients have had the legal right to read and correct their own medical records since 1996, actually accessing them is often a time-consuming and expensive process. Although advocates have encouraged doctors to share their notes with patients, physicians have been reluctant, fearing their patients may misinterpret what they read or become overly worried about test results.

Findings from a year-long study in which patients were given complete access to their medical records show that both patients and doctors were overwhelmingly satisfied with the outcome of sharing records. In the study, patients were emailed a link to their doctor’s notes a couple days after each visit. According to the New York Times,

“Approximately three-quarters of all the doctors said that such transparency had none of the dreaded impacts on their practice. Many felt there was more trust, better communication, more shared decision-making and increased patient satisfaction. While a portion of the doctors were hesitant at the beginning of the study, not a single one opted to stop sharing notes with patients after the study ended.”

In addition to helping patients feel more in control of their medical care, nearly 80% said they took their medications more regularly and were better able to follow their doctors’ recommendations when they had access to the notes.

Appointments are such a blur. Even though I always take a notebook to appointments, my notes usually wind up a jumbled mess. I would love to be able to see my medical record so easily. We all might have such access relatively soon — representatives from several major medical groups are meeting next week to discuss implementing records sharing on a wider basis.