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Patients Put Medical Records to Use

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Patients who have access to their medical records do better. The study, called OpenNotes, was carried out in three large health care systems in Boston, Seattle and Danville, PA. Over 100 primary care physicians and more than 13,000 of their patients participated. Patients were offered the opportunity to review their medical records including the clinic notes their doctors wrote after every visit. Clinic notes are detailed descriptions of the encounter, including diagnosis and treatment plan.

Some doctors were concerned that the notes would frighten or offend patients, but very few patients reported that they were confused or upset. More than three-fourths of the participating patients said that reviewing the notes made them feel they had better control over their own health care and were more conscientious about taking their medicines. Some patients spotted mistakes in their medical records and asked to have them corrected. Although very few patients in this country have access to their complete medical records, this study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that the OpenNotes system improves patient safety.

[Annals of Internal Medicine, Oct. 2, 2012]

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