Tuesday, October 9, 2012


In recent research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1363511), over thirteen thousand patients in a hundred medical practices—in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington—were given easy access to their records. More than three-quarters reported that this not only helped them feel more in control of their care, but increased their medication compliance. As for their physicians, they reported little effect on their practices. Almost none reported longer visits or more time addressing patients' questions outside of visits.

When I was a kid, open records would have been unthinkable. You couldn’t even get a practitioner to tell you your blood pressure. Medical records were written in professional shorthand (“38 y/o SWM c/o SOB”) not only to save time, but to obstruct lay access. Prescriptions were written in Latin. It would never have occurred to patients to ask to see their chart.

The law—now and even then—never supported that secrecy. Medical information about you is your property. A practice can charge you reasonably for making copies, but must convey your records upon request. 

That being the case, one wonders about the source of traditional resistance. Is it that whoever has the knowledge has the power? Do open records, then, signify a shift in power? In any case, open records is an idea whose time has come, and hopefully will lead to closer patient-doctor relationships. 

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