Last week I read about open source medical records, and thought that the concept was not only interesting, but likely to be the way of the future, given how easy it is becoming to share electronic information with anyone, anywhere. But today I was browsing through Grand Rounds and came across an article by a medical resident that details why giving patients their complete medical records might not be the best idea.
It would seem that there are pros and cons to both sides, and the position you take might have a lot to do with whether you are a patient or a doctor.
Obviously, patients should never be denied access to their medical records if they request them. Some patients don’t want to know all the nitty gritty details, while others thrive on having as much information as possible. Medical Resident makes a good point in stating that physicians should be able to make their notes and use them as a sorting tool for sifting through possible diagnoses without worrying about someone else dissecting those notes later on. A simple charting software could allow docs to make notes to themselves on one side of the screen, and write “official” notes on the other side after thinking about the patient’s specific situation. It’s not fair to expect a doctors to allow us access to every detail that passes through their heads, but it’s also not fair to keep any pertinent data from patients. Patients who don’t want to know the details probably won’t ask for their chart notes. Those that do ask, deserve to know what is being written about their health.
In general, I’m a fan of as much transparency as possible in health care. I think that patients, doctors, and payers (both public and private health insurance) should have access to information related to treatment, diagnoses, and cost – as quickly as possible and as clearly as possible. Open source medical records is one step towards transparency, and I like that. Chances are, patients who don’t want to know all the details wouldn’t be the ones accessing their open source notes anyway. And the doctors who aren’t in favor of open source notes won’t likely be among the first to implement them. But eventually, I imagine such a system will be commonplace.