'Open notes' are here. Are patients reading them?

Patients can now see most of their physicians' notes about their visits, but not many are taking advantage of this newfound transparency, The Atlantic reported.

In April 2021, a federal rule, known informally as "open notes," went into effect giving patients access to most of what their providers write about them. But physicians said most people aren't aware of this requirement, according to the Nov. 15 story. They also said it could lead to confusion if patients can't interpret medical information on their own or misread providers' shorthand.

"Let's say you came to me with pain and pointed to your mid-clavicular line. I'd just put 'MCL,'" Aldo Peixoto, a nephrologist at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health, told The Atlantic. "But if I were writing for you to understand, I'd have to say 'pain on the top-right portion of her abdomen in the line that runs from the middle of her clavicle,' and so on. Rather than writing four lines of prose, I could've used literally three letters."

Some patients have also encountered upsetting test results in the middle of the night, with no physician to consult, the magazine reported.

On the flip side, many patients have benefited from having immediate, free access to their electronic health information. Liz Salmi, the communications and patient-initiatives director at OpenNotes, an organization based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston that advocated for this change, told the news outlet she once requested her entire medical record, eight years into having brain cancer. The document was nearly 5,000 pages, and she had to pay $15 per DVD for multiple discs.

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