New cancer patients benefit from full access to medical records

Allowing full access to personal medical records increases satisfaction but not anxiety in people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer.

According to an online report for the journal Cancer from a research team headed by Gwenaelle Gravis, MD, of the Paoli-Calmettes Institute in Marseille, France, information is crucial for increasing a patient's empowerment and autonomy in medical decision-making, particularly in malignant diseases. However, the extent to which information should be delivered is unclear.

To assess how providing a patient with systematic full access to the medical record affected the patient's levels of anxiety and satisfaction as well as quality of life, the investigators conducted a randomized controlled trial of 295 persons recently diagnosed with breast cancer, colon cancer, or lymphoma and treated with chemotherapy at the Paoli-Calmettes Institute Regional Comprehensive Cancer Center. Patients who had to request access to their medical records were compared with those who were provided systematic full access.

Most patients who had the opportunity to obtain their medical record opted to do so. Although the differences were not statistically significant, those with full access were more satisfied with information and felt sufficiently informed more often than those who had to ask for such information. Anxiety levels did not increase in the full-access group, but they did not differ significantly from anxiety levels noted in the requested-access arm.

Overall, 74.8% of the patients who received full access to their records say they did not regret their choice to obtain the data, and 70.4% said they would do it again. Most of the patients stated that the information gave them a better understanding of their disease and helped them discuss it with their providers and loved ones.

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