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Tucson Social Security Disability Blog

You Can Now Read Your Medical Records--But Should You?

Posted by John Kuhnlein | Aug 05, 2021 | 0 Comments

New Federal rules allow patients to get and to read their medical records (this does not apply to mental-health records.) This seems like good news. Now you can read for yourself what your physician is saying about you. Who wouldn't want that, right?

The Good

Those advocating for access to their medical records claim that this will leave patients more informed. Knowing what is in their medical records will make them

Dear Patient: If you are reading this. . .

better medical consumers.  These newly enlightened patients can better discuss their situation with their doctors. In addition, proponents believe that this will force doctors to keep better notes and be more honest in what they write.

And The Bad

Those who opposed this change worry that the average patient will not understand what is written about them. The opponents also worried that doctors would edit themselves when they know the patient could read their notes. In practice, this means a doctor might not write down an observation or finding that a patient would find disturbing or even insulting.  A patient's vitals are usually part of their records.  Doctors routinely note that a patient is obese or even grossly obese. Are patients going to be happy to read that?

My Take

Though I strongly favor transparency and believe knowledge is a good thing, I am not big on letting patients read their medical records. I read medical records for a living. They are often confusing and contradictory. They are filled with gratuitous asides about a patient's appearance and demeanor. This could cause real friction between doctors and those they serve.

Two other problems could be worse. First, it is impossible to dispassionately read your own medical records. On countless occasions, I have had clients tell m things that are 100% different than what is in their medical records. Consider a woman, Ms. Jones,  who goes to the ER with a severe headache. Dr. Smith gives her some pain pills and sends her home. Later, Ms. Jones reads her records from the visit. One line references differential diagnoses and includes stroke or a brain tumor. Guess what Ms. Jones is going to fixate on? Does Ms. Jones understand what Dr. Smith meant when listed alternative causes for the headaches?

The other problem is the obverse of this. What if Dr. Smith saw some troubling signs in Ms. Jones that were too indefinite to rise to a diagnosis? If Dr. Smith

What Does This Even Mean?

censors herself and leaves out those observations for fear of what Ms. Jones will think, could this lead to bigger problems later? Consider too that most doctors now use electronic records that are essentially "fill in the blank." That means you are going to be reading pages of things that have nothing to do with you. Will you know which is which?

Bottom Line

Doctors have their own language, filled with jargon and acronyms, and Latin words (if you really want to feel like you have stumbled onto a foreign language, try an ophthalmologist's records.). If you don't speak that language, don't try to read it. Trust your doctor to put down in your chart what she thinks is important.

Would you read your medical records? Could you do so calmly and rationally? Let me know.

About the Author

John Kuhnlein

Since 1992, I have been helping the people of Southern Arizona get the benefits they are due. Before devoting all my efforts to assisting people with Social Security disability claims, I also handled such complex lawsuits as medical malpractice and products liability. I brought to my Social Security cases all the skills and attention to detail that I developed in the courtroom. I approach each Social Security disability case as if it were a million-dollar lawsuit. For the people trying to get Social Security benefits, their claim is every bit as important. Because I have personally handled so many Social Security cases, I have refined the skills I need to win your case for you. I have helped people win cases for every kind of ailment from arthritis to valley fever. At present, I am focused on helping those persons with neurological and orthopedic disorders. Because claims for people over age fifty bring additional complications, I particularly seek out those cases to work on. I regularly write about back and spine conditions on my blog. I actively seek out the latest information about orthopedic and neurological disorders to ensure I can represent my clients as effectively as possible. Because of my current focus, I regret that I am not able to take any cases for mental disorders. If you are over age fifty and suffer from any orthopedic or neurological disorder, please contact me at once.


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John Kuhnlein has been assisting people with Social Security disability claims for the past 20 years.

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