Patients now entitled to free access to their medical records
by jerry on May 23, 2021
Reporting on news that some people have been waiting on for a while, Kaiser Health News published a piece on a federal rule that recently took effect: healthcare providers are now required to provide patients with electronic access to their health information "without delay upon request, at no cost." It might seem odd that federal intervention is required for patients to have access to their health records -- it is, after all, their health -- but attitudes were very different even just fifteen years ago.
The article notes benefits of patients reading doctor notes: understanding more about their condition, remembering their treatment plan, being more likely to comply with prescriptions. Non-white, less educated, and older patients appear to benefit more than others, perhaps suggesting that the availability of notes allows those patients to better overcome potential language barriers (for example) because they have information to refer to after their visits.
Despite these benefits, many in the medical community at one point objected to openly sharing medical records with patients. Perhaps some felt that patients might needlessly question their notes or misinterpret some concept. Hopefully, the effect of this regulation will be to further cement a cultural shift among healthcare providers towards transparency.