Now Reading: A Few Articles in the New England Journal of Medicine about Patient Access to HIT

Many of the readers of this blog have probably seen these articles in the New England Journal of Medicine this week:

1. Off the Record — Avoiding the Pitfalls of Going Electronic. 2008. [Accessed April 18, 2008].

2. Personally Controlled Online Health Data — The Next Big Thing in Medical Care? 2008. [Accessed April 18, 2008].

3. Tectonic Shifts in the Health Information Economy. 2008.

I was most interested in the Hartzband and Groopman article, which was concerned with “what does this mean for us?” The “us” referred to, though, is “us doctors.” What about “us, the people with a primary professional mission to serve the public.” (I still have this link on my mind, forwarded by Bob Moore from Group Health Cooperative). It’s possible that if patients had the same access to their electronic medical record that we do, that many of the problems expressed in the article would, as I like to say, be “self-healing.” If I know that the patient I am serving is going to read what I write, how will that impact my interest in making it accurate? (My guess: A lot)

See what you think, comments welcome of course.


As I read the Hartzman & Groopman article, I wondered if the punchline was going to be: "…and because of all these problems with EHRs, let's keep the status quo of a paper, fax, phone call world."

Fortunately, that is NOT their conclusion, but they could have been much more explicit with this.

I suspect many will take their justified criticisms of EHRs as a reason NOT to adopt and/or to resist. Hartzman and Groopman miss an opportunity to establish themselves as physician leaders by emphasizing the "ain't it awful" aspects of change.

Thanks for pointing out these interesting NEJM articles.

I just returned from a visit with my primary care physician. Her clinic, part of Group Health Cooperative, has been using EHRs and a patient portal for 10+ years. "Yes, there are still some problems" she says, "But not one provider would go back to how it was before EHRs" she thinks. We're making progress.

Wow, Kathy, that's an impressive statement, and even more so because it is from the doctor to the patient, and from the patient to here. That says a lot to me about how compelling these technologically enabled abilities are to everyone in our health care system. Thanks for posting this,


Ted Eytan, MD