You may have signed a release to review or obtain copies of the documents in your medical record. Your primary care physician may have faxed or mailed copies of your notes to a specialist you were referred to. You may have even found it necessary to make a formal request to have an error fixed in your health record. Your PCP has given you a laundry list of instructions to follow before your next visit in a few months, but darned if you can remember all them.
What about if you had online access to your electronic health record to see what your doctor is writing about you, have copies for yourself at home to refer to, share with others as you like, and request corrections to that information?
OpenNotes, a recent year-long study, has explored this idea on a fairly large scale. Three medical facilities in different areas of the country participated in the study: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts; Geisinger Health System of Danville, Pennsylvania; and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. Approximately 100 physicians and 20,000 patients participated in the study.
Many physicians were optimistic about the impact patient online access would have, such as improved patient-doctor communication as well as increased patient cooperation and engagement in their healthcare. Still, others were concerned about confusing or worrying their patients, increased demands on their time when answering questions about what was written in their notes, and perhaps feeling they should be less candid and more careful about what they write in patients’ reports.
The majority of patients were enthusiastic about the opportunity to view their records online, feeling that it would lead to better understanding of their treatment plans and improved accuracy of their records.
You may read more about the OpenNotes project here http://www.myopennotes.org/. Through this link, you may also connect to the perspective and baseline findings articles that were published in the December 20, 2011, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
What are your thoughts on online access to your medical records?