Medical Image Sharing: Should I Give My Patients Access?

Posted by Les Trachtman on Mar 2, 2017 5:35:31 PM

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As a responsible physician, you may worry about the potential effects of giving your patients electronic access to their medical images. However, many of these fears aren’t justified by the facts. If you’re worried about the dangers of giving your patients access to medical imaging studies, the following may help to put your mind at ease.

Let’s take a look at the risks and benefits of sharing medical images with patients.

Fewer Medical Malpractice Claims

A rising number of medical malpractice claims are being based on too little communication between doctors and patients, not too much. When you give patients access with electronic medical image sharing, they have an opportunity to ask questions that you may never have thought to answer.

This is something you want to encourage, as enhancing communication with your patients can improve your ability to treat them effectively and reduce your risk of facing a malpractice claim.

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You Won't Really Increase Physician Workload

Some doctors worry that giving patients access to medical imaging will result in the patient asking more questions and therefore taking up more of the doctor’s time. However, studies show that there is no appreciable increase in the time doctors spend answering patient questions when they let the patients have a copy of the images.

Although the images may spark some questions that patients wouldn’t otherwise have asked, they may also help patients to understand their condition better and therefore help avoid some other questions. There’s no need to worry that sharing images will eat up too much of your time and leave you unable to meet your duties as physicians; in practice this is not the case.

Second Opinions Are Nothing to Fear

When medical imaging studies are shared with patients, they are empowered to ask other doctors for second opinions. Many doctors feel uncomfortable about patients seeking second opinions, but in reality it’s nothing to fear. Yes, it’s possible that the second opinion will sometimes prove you wrong, but patients don’t expect doctors to be infallible.

If you are wrong about a patient’s condition, it’s better to find this out as early as possible so you can ensure a good treatment outcome for the patient.

Keep Health Records Up to Date

When a patient visits their general practitioner (GP) with ankle pain, the GP might not have access to x-rays of an old injury that the patient had treated at another clinic several years before. This can reduce the physician's ability to offer an accurate diagnosis and give advice to the patient. If the patient has a copy of their own medical images, they can give these images to their doctor to ensure that their electronic health record (EHR) is up to date and complete, leading to better treatment outcomes.

Key Takeaway

It’s time to move away from the old model of medicine, in which the doctor has all the information and the patient has none. We are in an age where the more information you can give to your patients, the better the treatment outcomes they will experience.

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Topics: Image sharing, patient access

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