Medical records should be shared between patients and their healthcare providers

Doctor sharing medical records with his patient
Those who are old enough will remember the days when medical records were heavily shielded from patients. There was always a bold warning stamped on the case notes that read: ‘not to be handled by patients’. This still remains the case in some health facilities. But such a paternalistic attitude has fallen out of favor over the years. It is now the norm for medical records to be shared with patients verbatim, either upfront or on request.

There are several benefits that accrue when medical records are shared between patients and their healthcare providers. For starters, you get a chance to review all your consults, tests and treatment recommendations in details. And in your own time. This gives you a chance to seek redress for any matters that may appear a bit hazy. If you are doing cross-consultations, all you need is to carry your records with you. This negates recounting everything from memory and improves efficiency by avoiding repetitive testing and associated evaluations that may already have been done. The records get updated as you trod along among different healthcare providers. Your copy should always be the most up to date.

You can choose to have either paper or an electronic format of your records. Paper records are slowly becoming archaic, and the transition to digital health records is now the norm. You have plenty of choices with digitized records. You can move around with a portable storage device, have access to a centralized medical records database, or use cloud storage. Whichever way, what you want is ready access to your records, at any time and anywhere.

As usual, there are those who worry about patients accessing details of their own medical records. Some argue that you wouldn’t really understand what is captured, and may find it difficult to cope with some grim details about your own health. Well, you should be the one to judge for yourself about such matters. The duty of healthcare providers is to optimize your health and simplify everything on your records to an understandable level. Issues about secure storage, unauthorized access, and back-up of digital records also keep coming up. But there are lots of measures that can mitigate such concerns.

If your healthcare provider does not routinely offer you a copy of your records, you should feel free to ask for one. Everything in those records is about you, and you have the right to an unedited copy of all that information. What you want to do with it is up to you. Some healthcare providers will have unhelpful bureaucracies in aiding access to your medical records. This should never be the case. In the future, we will all have an embedded medical records chip within ourselves, enabling the omnipresence of our own health data.
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