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FOX Medical Team: Reading your doctor's notes

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ATLANTA -

Ever go to the doctor and see your doctor scribbling in your file. Haven't you always wondered what notes they are writing down?

Patients are now being invited to read their doctor's notes after each visit. About 19,000 patients did just that helping to test a pilot program called "Open Notes." More than 90 percent of patients felt reading their doctor's notes helped them take better care of themselves, but the trend might come with a downside.

More and more patients want to sneak a peek over their physician's shoulder to be more involved in their own care.

"I think that's good, because most of the data that we have shows that the more involved a patient, the more empowered they feel and the better outcome," said Dr. Horesh-Berquist.

Emory internist Dr. Sharon Horesh-Berquist's hospital system already allows patients to view their electronic medical records, but she say letting patients read their doctor's actual notes could get complicated.

"The first concern is always security. Because once patients can access the record, they can print them, and they can land at a table, at a restaurant.  So, we have we have to go to great effort to make sure it doesn't get into the wrong hands," said Dr. Horesh-Berquist.

And many physicians write in medicalese, using terms and abbreviations understood by other providers, but lost on patients.

"There's always the concern that people don't understand the medical terminology used in their record.  And that can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretation, potentially anxiety for the patient.  Potentially a rift in the patient-doctor relationship," said Dr. Horesh-Berquist.

Still the open notes pilot study showed the vast majority of patients and doctors who shared their notes felt it strengthened their relationship. Dr. Horesh-Berquist said this trend could get tricky.

"I see just as much negative as I see positive of that.  And I think we have to be very careful to see are we doing a service, or disservice," said Dr. Horesh-Berquist.

Major providers from the Veterans Administration to the Cleveland Clinic are allowing patients to read their doctor's notes, but not everyone is comfortable with this kind of doctor-patient sharing.

In the pilot program, younger patients embraced the idea, but a lot of older patients said "no thanks."

For more information on the pilot program visit myopennotes.org.

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