An anonymous, voluntary survey of 359 patients showed most considered having access to their medical records as a favourable development. The survey, conducted between Feb. and April 2022, was designed to assess patient experiences viewing their online dermatology records through a local Patient Gateway portal.
According to a research letter published in JAMA Dermatology, more than half of patients seen at two Brigham and Women’s Hospital–affiliated dermatology clinics in Boston reported that reading their dermatology notes resulted in improved understanding of their medical condition and treatment plan. They also reported increased feelings of involvement in their care.
Author Kevin Yang and colleagues from the Tufts University School of Medicine say these findings are important because engaged patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, leading to improved health outcomes.
Study results showed that 343 (95.5%) of the 359 survey respondents were enrolled in the Patient Gateway. Lab results (n=319 [88.9%]) and clinical notes (n=302 [84.1%]) were the categories most reviewed by the patients. A total of 280 patients (78.0%) said they had previously read dermatology clinic notes on the Patient Gateway, and 254 (90.4%) of those patients felt positively or very positively about being able to read their dermatology clinic notes. For most patients, according to the report, access to dermatology clinic notes helped them understand their medical condition better (n=196 [70.0%]) and fostered increased involvement in their care (n=180 [64.3%]). The authors noted that some survey respondents said access to clinic notes enhanced their ability to discuss dermatologic diagnoses with other healthcare professionals (n=117 [41.8%]) and improved skin self-care (n=83 [29.6%]).
A minority of patients expressed concerns over missing/inaccurate information, unclear instructions, and ambiguous terminology, suggesting potential areas for improvement.
"To optimize patient experiences, clear and unambiguous language should be used, without compromising clinical documentation," the authors wrote.
In the U.S., healthcare systems are mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act to provide patients with electronic access to information in their medical records, in an effort to promote healthcare transparency.