Let Patients Read Their Medical Records

Dhruv Khullar, M.D. | The New York Times | March 31, 2016

Sometimes, before I interview new patients, while I’m waiting for them to be transported from the emergency department to the medical floor, I play a game.
I look through their lab tests. I peruse their imaging studies. I read other doctors’ notes and recent discharge summaries. Then I guess what the diagnosis is. I know this is bad. It goes against most of what I learned about good doctoring in medical school — that the patient’s story is the core of medicine, that it’s essential for accurate diagnoses and therapeutic relationships.

It can also be dangerous. When I interview patients, I often find their medical charts are littered with inaccuracies. It’s one reason “read it in my chart” isn’t a good way for patients to communicate health information — or for doctors to learn it. When I read a patient’s electronic health record, I now assume what’s written there is as likely to be wrong or outdated as it is to be accurate. Sometimes these discrepancies are minor and inconsequential; sometimes they can be devastating. And unlike what happens in Vegas, what’s written in your medical record often stays with you forever.

One study found that there’s complete agreement between medications listed in the electronic health record and what patients actually take only in about 5 percent of patients. Another study found that 43 percent of medications listed in the electronic health record were inaccurate — with 29 percent having been stopped and 14 percent changed. Many allergies and adverse drug reactions aren’t recorded. Research from the Veterans Health Administration found that 60 percent of patient records had at least one error. From 2013 to 2014, the percentage of lawsuits related to electronic health record issues doubled and is expected to rise...