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Full record access for patients

Cancer patients should be given full access to their medical records to help them understand their illness, researchers have suggested.

A study found that providing accurate information to newly-diagnosed patients was a beneficial complement to their verbal communication with doctors.

Receiving the information increased satisfaction among patients without increasing their anxiety.

Many health professionals believe that giving cancer sufferers comprehensive information about their disease may have a negative impact by causing them to become more worried.

In the latest study, one group of patients was given systematic full access to organised medical records (OMR), while another group received information on request.

The researchers assessed the impact of the information on patients' anxiety, quality of life and satisfaction.

Of those who received an OMR, 70.4% said they would make the same choice again, and 74.8% did not regret their decision.

Most patients also said the OMR had not been a source of anxiety for them and that it had helped them to understand their disease more thoroughly.

The majority also said that they understood the information in the OMR, and that it had helped them discuss their condition with their relatives and doctors.

Lead researcher Dr Gwenaelle Gravis, from the Paoli-Calmettes Institute in France, said: "Information is crucial to make decisions regarding treatment options and, for the patient and his family, to better cope with the disease and its implications.

"Having full access to his own medical record with the possibility to consult it only if desired increases the patient's trust in the physician and medical team."

The study has been published online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

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