As a physician in training, I was admonished by my mentors never to leave the patient and her chart alone in the exam room, "She might read it." Forty years later, a new study suggests that all the anxiety that physicians have had about their patients reading their medical records was misguided.The study, OpenNotes, allowed 13,000 patients to have complete access to the notes that their doctors wrote about them. Within a few days of their office visit, patients were invited to view their doctor's notes on a secure website.After a year, almost all the patients had positive feelings about the OpenNotes intervention. Patients often felt in more control of their own care. Almost 80% said that reading their doctor's notes helped them follow their treatment plan better, particularly in taking their medications more regularly. Nearly all of the patients wanted to continue to receive their physician's notes when the study ended.The doctors, although skeptical at first, all agreed to continue sharing their notes when the study ended. Three-quarters said that the transparency had none of the dreaded side-effects they had worried about. Many felt that sharing their notes resulted in improved communication, increased patient satisfaction and more shared decision-making.Since Congress passed the HIPPA Act in 1996, patients have had the right to both read and edit their own medical records. I predict that easy access to reading our physician's notes will become a standard of care.Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
MOHLER: Inviting patients to read their doctor's notes
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