Dr. Dustin Ballard: Do Open Doctor Notes Work?

Dustin Ballard | Marin Independent Journal | November 5, 2012

YOUR DOCTOR gives you a measured assessment of your physical condition. The language is just technical enough to be hard to follow, and the recommendations just oblique enough to seem unconvincing. But you wonder, what if my doctor told me what she really thought — that you were sedentary and overweight, for example. Would that improve your health? Is there any way a doc would want to share such an opinion?

If you've wondered about this, then consider a recently published study granting patients open access to their physician's notes. "In his notes, the doctor called me 'mildly obese,'" wrote one study subject. This is the type of comment that many doctors would hesitate to make directly to a patient, for fear of offending him or her. When reviewed in a note, however, it had a different effect; "This prompted my immediate enrollment in Weight Watchers and daily exercise," the patient continued.