By Lisa Zamosky
Few things are as personal as our health information. Yet a common complaint among patients is that they have difficulty getting hold of their private medical records. There are laws guiding how medical records are shared, some of which I discussed in this previous post.
Not infrequently, there is disagreement between doctors and patients about a patient’s right to possess his or her records, which among other items, includes a doctor’s notes. And often, in order to access their personal medical information, patients have to go to a lot of trouble and, in some cases, cost in order to do so.
A new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Medicine published in the Annals of Internal Medicine sheds light on patients’ and doctors’ differing views on the topic.
Patient and Doctor Attitudes Vary
The study, which took place in primary physician offices in three different U.S. cities, aimed to uncover the attitudes of both patients and doctors with regard to patients having access to the notes their physician takes during a medical visit.
Generally, the study found that patients want access to the notes, while doctors seem to be less convinced that sharing their notes would have a positive impact.
Here’s a snapshot of what the study found:
- 92-97% of patients felt that making notes from a doctor’s visit available to patients was a good idea
- 80% believed that having access to the information would enable them to take better care of themselves
- Over 50% of patients thought the notes would improve their ability to properly take prescribed medications.
Although most doctors — 69-81% — who chose to make their notes available for patient review felt that doing so was a good idea, they were generally concerned that it would also cause patients to worry. In fact, 50% to 58% of participating doctors and 88% to 92% of doctors who chose not to allow patients to see their notes said they thought the notes had the potential for increased (and perhaps unnecessary) worry for patients.
But patients didn’t share doctors’ concerns: only 16% thought access to the notes would cause them undue concern.
It seems we’re in a new age in which patients want greater involvement in their care and to know what their doctors have to say about them and their medical conditions. Have doctors simply failed to catch up and understand what patients want or do they know something the rest of us don’t?
Share your thoughts: Would you want to see what your doctor writes in his or her notes during your office visit? Is it a good idea to open the notes or should they be kept in a locked vault?