In a September 2014 Accenture survey most U.S. consumers polled wanted to have full access to their electronic medical records (EMR), and 41 percent would be willing to switch doctors to gain access.

About one-third of U.S. consumers already have full access to their EMR, and 57 percent self-track their personal health information, including health history, physical activity, and health indicators (37, 34, and 33 percent, respectively).

Per Accenture, eighty-four percent of U.S. consumers believe they should have full access to their EMR, but only 36 percent of physicians agree. Sixty-five percent of physicians believe patients should have limited EMR access.

The results of a recent Sermo (a physician social media site) poll where the questions were authored by Forbes show that 49% believe that “all record” medical record access should be given on a case by case basis and 17% believe “No never”. Forbes then published an article on the poll results.

medical records access headline

This is the Forbes headline of the article related to that survey:

medical record access headline

The above captioned headline is clearly misleading. I’ll bet Forbes constructed the questions in such a way as to be sure that they could create this headline. When a physician is asked whether access to complete health records should be given on a case-by-case basis, does that really mean that they are reluctant to share records? I don’t know because they did not ask physicians – “Are you reluctant to share medical records?” These are poorly worded poll questions and the reporting is even worse. The same is true for the Accenture poll – “Sixty-five percent of physicians believe patients should have limited EMR access.” What does limited mean?

When asking physicians about the sharing of medical records with patients we should not work in the world of absolutes. I think most physicians would share the complete medical record with the overwhelming majority of their patients if their software provided the flexibility and granularity they require.

One physician commented, “
No they should not have access to their full records, many times they contain clinically useful information for patient management that may be offensive but true. Some people can’t handle the truth and that will lead to vilification of the physician.”

As physicians, the question we need to address is, how many times are we involved with patients where information in the medical record may be offensive? Is it really “many times”? Aside for certain mental health providers shouldn’t the case of offensive data causing vilification of the physician be a rare occurrence? I think yes!

We work as physicians but we are also patients. Do we want our physicians to have frank conversations with us about our health? Don’t we want our physicians to share our medical record with us? Of course we do!

Patients have always had access to the paper version of their medical records. With the proliferation of EHRs and Patient Portals it is the seamless electronic access that has caused this new debate. I would bet that most physicians would like to share almost all medical records but need the flexibility within their EHR to make certain that in special cases they can have more control over the data. Now, physicians have a bias against sharing because they believe it is an all or nothing decision.

There are times that data on a patient portal should be hidden, like in the sensitive case of a sexually active teen that shares portal access with their parent. What if there was a system that facilitated the sharing of most every medical record but allowed for selective “hiding” of certain data when there is that type of sensitivity, which creates a special circumstance?

In my next blog on this issue I will discuss the above captioned special circumstance and how the MediTouch portal offers physicians more control over the data that is shared with patients.