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Medical Record Transparency

Posted Sep 23 2009 10:17pm

Ever since the economic collapse last year the word that has been thrown around is transparency.  People want to know what’s really going on and how it will impact them.  Transparency is not exclusive to the financial community, the medical community has increased its discussions about transparency thanks to patient advocacy groups.  Medical records have been the source of tremendous tension between doctors and patients because of the secrecy of the record.  As discussion increases about healthcare reform, the conversation about opening medical records is ever increasing.

Many healthcare providers and hospitals are going to electronic medical records.  This is both environmentally sounds, and more efficient for the providers, but what goes in your medical record?  We know that your vital statistics, lab reports and most importantly your doctor’s evaluation is part of the record…so why is it so secret?  As a patient I like to know what my doctor is thinking.  Jerome Groopman’s book, How Doctor’s Think allows patients to understand the doctor’s process for arriving at diagnoses and treatment plans.  As a patient, if I’m able to understand how my doctor thinks then I believe we could partner better and increase my level of health and healing.

Making it difficult to get hold of your medical record is frustrating.  Providers have used various discouraging tactics to deter people from requesting their records and that’s wrong.  Dome medical providers believe that giving patients access to their own medical records will increase lawsuits, but research shows otherwise.  Personally I know that having access to your medical record is crucial because mistakes happen.  I was visiting my dermatologist and as the medical assistant was reviewing my record I happened to see that my record showed that I had been diagnosed with skin cancer…NOT TRUE.  I asked her about removing this from my record and I was told that it couldn’t be removed, it was a permanent part of the record.  Needless to say when my doctor entered the room I once again brought this incorrect diagnosis to his attention.  He removed it from the record.  If I hadn’t seen my medical record I’d have this false diagnosis and it would follow me around the rest of my life.

Why is this important?  If you’re applying for disability insurance, long-term care insurance, life insurance or another health insurance program this kind of information would raise your rates if the company even extended you a policy (That might change with healthcare reform).  More importantly, having information that is wrong skews the future of your own healthcare.  Doctors who believe the wrong medical record will follow that sequence of thinking when treating you.

Having access to your record will improve the relationship you have with your doctor.  It does two things, puts in a checks and balance system, and makes the doctor become more mindful of what they put in the record.  Knowing what’s in your medical record is crucial to the future of your  health and well-being.

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