Medicine continues to take small but encouraging steps to move out of the 19th century in communications with patients. The latest: an experiment at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital to let patients read on a secure website the notes that doctors write about them at the end of each visit.
As reported in the Boston Globe by Liz Kowalczyk, the project will last a year and will include detailed questionnaires to see how doctors and patients react to these “open notes.”
Sometimes the notes a doctor writes after seeing a patient are more blunt than the message the patient might hear in person, for example, a discussion in the office about the patient’s obesity or use of narcotic pain relievers.
Patrick Malone’s new book, “The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst,” advises patients to always read their own medical records — even if the facts they contain may be a little “raw.” The upside to reading your own record is to improve your own understanding of what the doctor’s advice was, to help correct errors or omissions in what the doctor wrote, and to otherwise make you the patient a more vital participant in your own health care.