Purpose: There is an emerging standard to provide patients rapid electronic access to elements of their medical records. Although surveys of patients generally support it, this practice is controversial among oncologists, because few empiric data are available for scenarios of potentially life-threatening conditions like cancer. We report the views of oncologists about patient electronic access to radiology and pathology results that could potentially indicate disease progression.
Methods: Four months before oncologists were surveyed, final results of radiology/pathology reports were routinely made available to patients online through a secure portal after a 7-day, hold to provide clinicians time to review and communicate results with the patients. Mixed methods were used to assess physician attitudes and experiences toward this change.
Results: One hundred twenty-nine oncologists were surveyed, and 82 (64%) responded. A small majority (54%) responded that the release of reports was somewhat or very beneficial for patients who received normal radiology/pathology results before discussion with a physician, but 87% said it was somewhat or very harmful for patients to receive abnormal results before discussion. Forty-nine percent reported that release of reports had a somewhat or very negative impact on communication with their patients.
Conclusion: Almost half of oncologists reported that sharing digital radiology and pathology records had a negative impact on their communication with patients. Patient surveys in similar cancer populations would complement the physician perspective. Efforts are needed to improve consensus among oncologists and patients on how to best communicate such results in a timely fashion.
Copyright © 2016 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.