Ever wonder what’s in your medical record?

A new study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine surveyed 105 doctors and 13,564 of their patients who had access to their doctor’s notes online.

Doctors within three different hospitals in Boston, Seattle and Pennsylvania opened up their medical notes to patients for the study, which gave access to full medical records – including detailed description of diagnosis and treatment plans and blood test results – for the duration of the study period, which they could access electronically through a secure web portal.

“At the end of the year, patients told us that they felt more competent in taking care of themselves. They felt as if they understood their medical issues better and they also said that felt as if they take their medications a little bit more appropriately,” study author Dr. Joann Elmore, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington told CBC.

“The finding that patients said they might take their more medications more correctly is really important because when patients have multiple, chronic medical problems some of them are on 15, 18 different medications. It can get very confusing and hard for patients to keep them all straight. Being able to access a web portal and review the medications after a clinic visit is really helpful to patients,” she continued.

The results were overwhelmingly positive, with over 77 per cent of patients surveyed saying they felt more in control of their care and over 60 per cent reporting better and more frequent adherence to their medications. Only less than eight per cent reported worry or confusion about their records being online.

Around 60 per cent noted that they would have preferred an area where they could leave comments on their doctor’s notes, and one third of doctors agreed that it could be a beneficial addition for patients.

But what about the sensitive topics? While many doctors chose to write “body mass index” instead of “obesity” in their notes to avoid potentially offending a patient, one patient who read the words “mildly obese” in their notes used it as motivation to enrol in a diet and exercise program in order to have the comment reversed on their next check-up.

Some doctors noted concern with patients who were addicted to narcotics having access to the notes, which pointed out an area that could use more research.


Here in Canada, patients have the right to a copy of their medical records, but may need to pay for copying and administration fees, and doctors can choose to only provide diagnostic results rather than full notes.

In Toronto, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre created MyChart, which allows patients electronic access to their records.

How do you feel about having full access to your medical records online? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, CBC News

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ lionvision

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