More EMR data could mean more patient anxiety

One of the side effects of greater transparency is that potentially embarrassing or alarming information could get out. This is certainly true when patients are able to view electronic medical records.

"Meaningful use" of EMRs will require providers to give patients copies of their health information on demand, but the proposal CMS released Dec. 30 does not say exactly what such reports should say, or how information should be displayed. And some patients require more context than just supposedly "normal" ranges. "You're going to have a lot of abnormal results on paper that don't mean anything. Some patients will be freaking out," Dr. Steven Waldren, director of the American Academy of Family Physicians' Center for Health IT tells a Huffington Post Investigative Fund reporter.

Kaiser Permanente has been offering a patient web portal for five years. The organization routinely used capital letters to indicate abnormal test results, and patients received an alarm in the form of an "H" to indicate a high value in their records. Kaiser, therefore, had to change how it reported lab values to compare each patient's readings to a normal range. Intermountain Health Care in Salt Lake City took a similar tack, though Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston still displays normal ranges and flags abnormalities and includes links to educational material to help patients understand the results.

To learn more:
- read this Huffington Post Investigative Fund article