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Peeking over your physician's shoulder: Should we have open access to our medical information?

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We have all been there. You wait in the doctor's office, vulnerable, cold and naked, except for that disposable "gown", looking around the confined spaces. "What is that for?", you wonder as you eye a shiny stainless steel object, sitting atop the carefully organized table.

Then your doctor comes in, asks "How are you today?" and you think, "Not well - otherwise, I wouldn't be here" and you explain what has been bothering you, whether it is a persistent sore throat, or...whatever. Your doctor begins scribbling notes in your file, and you wonder what he/she is writing. Who would dare ask? The unknown itself can cause anxiety that may well exacerbate whatever ails you.

After your doctor leaves, placing your file inside the plastic compartment secured to the door of the examination room, how many of us have been tempted to just take a peek at those seemingly elicit documents containing our deepest, darkest secrets? Imagine if you could not only take a furtive glance, but could take home a copy of the entire file, or even share observations with your healthcare provider. Would this improve health outcomes?

Recently, a study has begun to address this question, to give patients open access to their own medical files. After all, those notes are about our bodies, ourselves; shouldn't we be able to know what was written? Such information has been limited exclusively to physicians and to insurance companies evaluating health care. It is encouraging that a 12 month trial is now underway led by physicians at the Harvard Medical School to evaluate whether access to these files will benefit their patients.

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Jeffrey H. Toney is Dean of the College of Natural, Applied and Health Sciences at Kean University and is a Trusted Author at OpEdNews. He received a B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Virginia and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry at Northwestern (more...)
 
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