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Many Patients Interested in Reading Their Own Medical Records

CHICAGO Many patients report that they are interested in reading their own medical records, according to an article in the April 12 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to the article, the momentum to involve patients in all aspects of their health and health care is increasing, but little is known about whether patients would want to review their own medical records if given the opportunity.

Jinnet B. Fowles, Ph.D., of the Park Nicollet Institute, Minneapolis, and colleagues conducted a mail survey of 4,500 adults who had a recent clinic visit. The response rate was 81 percent.

The researchers found that 36 percent of respondents were very interested in reading their medical records, and another 43 percent were somewhat interested in doing so. Patients who wanted to read their own medical records were more likely to report seeking other health information, such as finding the Internet to be a very important source of health information and having a subscription to a health newsletter. They were also more likely to have used a health resource book in the last month, have concerns about errors in their care, and lack trust in their physician.

The most common reasons for patients wanting to look at their medical record were to see what their physician had said about them (74 percent), to be more involved in their health care (74 percent) and to understand their condition better (72 percent).

Patients interest in reading their medical record is better predicted by their consumer approach to health care than it is by their clinical characteristics, the authors write. In this population, over one third of patients report being very interested in reading their clinical records. Many are cautious, however, and would prefer to see a paper copy of their records rather than an electronic versions. By providing access to the medical record in either paper or electronic version, we may improve patients understanding about their role in their condition, and we may improve the patient-physician relationship.

Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:793-800. Available at www.archinternmed.com.

Editors Note: This study was supported by a grant from Arlene M. Carlson, Minnetonka, Minn.

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