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Is “Allowing” Patients to Read Doctors’ Notes a Right or a Privilege?

Posted on : 28-07-2010 | By : Akiva Zablocki | In : Health, Medical Records, PHR, Social Media

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There has been a lot of debate this month around patients’ access to physician notes. The debate began after the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced the funding of a year-long study called OpenNotes. According to Reuters, patients would be able to “look over the notes from a home computer and share them with family and friends if they choose.” After one year the researchers will study the patients’ and doctors’ experiences and try to gauge whether patients want to continue having access to their notes online, and whether doctors want to continue granting that access. There is a real fear that patients will misunderstand the shorthand and medical terms in the notes, as well as create more work for the physician when the patients call in or email concerned or misguided.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran articles on OpenNotes, debating the pros and cons of doctors granting ease of access to their notes online. I emphasize ease of access since, as WSJ eloquently states, “patients have a legal right to see their entire medical record including doctor’s notes,” with an exception of psychiatric notes, which is up to the physician’s judgment.  There is little doubt that one of the most significant changes made by