February 3, 2012

Patients Want to Read, Share Their Medical Records

This may open some controversies. According to a pair of US studies, patients want easy access to any doctor's notes recorded in their medical records and they want the right to let others view their medical records. This bothers me in so many ways. Yes, I would like easier access to my own medical records, but reserve the right to prohibit others from viewing them. There are many sides to this issue and some changes needed.

The other issue in this article is the idea that there is more evidence that some in the medical community want to see patients actively participate in their care and know what is happening and this will improve their care. This is very much needed although many patients still want the doctor to make the decision and give them the pill that will solve the problem. Wake up patients; only if you take time to learn about your condition or medical problem, chances are that your health may improve. Old habits must be removed and new knowledge replaces them.

Presently there is a long and tedious process to obtain copies of many medical records, while are some are easily accessible. When you have an appointment, be sure to ask the nurse and the doctor for copies of your lab reports if lab work was done for your appointment. These they should provide immediately and most do without hesitation. Once you leave the office, then time becomes a problem as you must sign forms and wait for copies. In addition, there may be a charge for making copies. Other records are more difficult to come by.

These studies are interesting as they talk about transparency and making medical records more available. If only this could work, instead of being as tedious as is the process is now. Most medical facilities seem to work the “wear them down” mantra in getting copies of their medical records. They will work every angle in delay and make a mistake and they legitimately delay your access.

This statement is interesting, “Increasingly, health systems are making it easier for patients to get access to prescription lists, lab results and, sometimes, doctors' notes. Delbanco said one reason is that "the whole world is becoming transparent ... The other is that computers make it easier."” I hope Dr. Tom Delbanco at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School is right in his statement. This runs contrary to most information I have seen on this topic.

E-patient Dave (Dave deBronkart) is a patient advocate writer and speaker and believes that patients can become a second set of eyes to prevent things from falling through the cracks. He also feels that patients are capable of helping avoid mistakes. I agree here, but there are times when it may be best to withhold some tests results until the doctor has reviewed them and can present them with a complete explanation.

The numbers of patients wanting to share their information with other providers and family members (spouse) seems to vary depending on the study. One group had 35 percent privacy concerns while 22 percent were interested in sharing their doctor's notes with a family member, doctor, or other health professional. At the Veterans Affairs medical centers, about 80 percent would designate primarily a spouse to have access to their records.

In this article, a majority of the doctors (over two-thirds) did not like the idea of patients having access to their notes or educating the patients. These are the doctors that I am concerned about, that want their patients to follow them blindly and their directions without question.

Since this is a topic becoming more talked about, please take time to read both articles and some of e-patient Dave's blogs. Some doctors are bound to resist this trend, some doctors will resist mildly, and others will welcome the change. Which group will your doctor be a member.

No comments: