Are there risks in giving patients access to their medical recrods?

I recently read an online discussion about whether or not patients should have direct access to their own EKG. Someone suggested that patients NOT have access to their EKGexcept through their physician because of the risk that the patient might misinterpret it. This makes no sense to me.

Of course there is a risk in giving patients access to their own medical data. So what? We are immersed in risk.

  • There is a danger of delay if the patient must wait for a clinician to receive, review and respond to the data.
  • There is a danger that the PCP, cardiologist or even the EP cardiologist will mis-read it.
  • There is a danger of failed communication in our collection of non-communicating medical systems, because the information might not be sent to the correct person. The report may never get to the clinician who is supposed to relay the information to the patient.
  • There is even some danger in driving to the medical office to discuss it. (Well, less so here in Maine, but you get the idea.)

Patients ultimately make decisions about risk all the time. Is this a chest pain I should ignore, call my PCP about, go to the ED, or call an ambulance? Is that black stool from taking Pepto Bismol or from a bleeding ulcer? Is that tingling in my hand my carpal tunnel syndrome, or is it a stroke? Is that funny smell from the basement normal, or is it something  wrong with the furnace? Is the driving in today’s snowstorm too bad to go to work? Am I capable of getting on the roof to replace the chimney cap? Do I have time to pass this slow and erratic driver now, or should I wait? Is there danger from Home Depot selling my neighbor welding equipment? Is there danger when I go for a three day solo hike on the AT in early October in New Hampshire?

The question is not ‘Is there risk?’ Of course there is risk. The question is also not ‘How big is the risk?  That’s beside the point. 

The question is very simple: Who should decide if the risk is acceptable?

My answer is also very simple: The patient. 

Full. Stop.



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