Docs will open up medical records

    Web portal will connect patients to their doctor’s written notes.

    Some patients in Central Pennsylvania may soon find out just what their doctor thinks of them. WHYY reports on a new trial at the Geisinger Health System. A doctor there is trying to persuade colleagues to open up their notes and give patients a peek.
    (Photo: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    Listen: [audio:091001tenotes.mp3]

    Dr. Jonathan Darer leads clinical transformation at Geisinger. He’s convinced that giving people easier access to their doctor’s notes can improve patient care. After an appointment, patients will be able to log-on to a secure Web site.

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    Darer: The doctor may have written more in their note than you were aware of in the conversation. The doctor’s thinking now may be available to you. ‘Oh, this is why they are doing these tests.’

    Darer says the notes could help patients remember their treatment plan and health goals.

    Darer: What am I supposed to do if I feel shaky, if I’m peeing all the time. What’s the follow up plan, who am I going to be seeing next, you know all that stuff.

    Patients already have a right to see their medical records, but actually getting access can be costly and cumbersome. Some medical practices charge hefty copying fees and patients complain that doctors offices pick and choose what information to share.

    Pottsville family physician Thomas Graf is another doctor willing to share his notes but he says other doctors worry they’ll be barraged with time-consuming phone calls and questions. Graf says there could also be unintended ill will if patients are offended by or misunderstand what they read.

    Graf: … Or just getting themselves very anxious and concerned about a condition that’s unlikely but maybe part of that long list of things that the physician was considering in the diagnosis, and so they would sort of worry themselves into another problem.

    Graf says sharing notes may change what doctors write down.

    Graf: But the time it takes to do that or the effort the physician needs to expend might be better spent doing something else rather than, sort of, wordsmithing their note.

    Geisinger is working to enroll 25 health providers and 10-thousand patients in the open notes experiment.

    Tag: Geisinger is one of three medical centers that will test the open notes idea, the trial is set to begin in January.

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