Walker, Jan et al., N Engl J Med. January 2, 2014 370: 6-8.
Forty years ago, Shenkin and Warner argued that giving patients their medical records “would lead to more appropriate utilization of physicians and a greater ability of patients to participate in their own care.”1 At that time, patients in most states could obtain their records only through litigation, but the rules gradually changed, and in 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act entitled virtually all patients to obtain their records on request. Today, we’re on the verge of eliminating such requests by simply providing patients online access. Thanks in part to federal financial incentives,2 electronic medical records are becoming the rule, accompanied increasingly by password-protected portals that offer patients laboratory, radiology, and pathology results and secure communication with their clinicians by e-mail.
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