When the Doctor’s Notes Hurt Your Feelings

73 03/06/2022

Have you ever been insulted by your own medical records?

When the Doctor’s Notes Hurt Your Feelings

Medical jargon can be confusing, but it can also sometimes hurt a patient’s feelings. This week on Twitter, a group of health care workers shared stories of patients who became upset after reading the physician notes in their medical records.

One patient read the notes from her colonoscopy report, which included a reference to a “time out.” The woman reportedly was upset by this, and called her doctor saying she was “well behaved during the procedure and did not need a ‘time out.’”

The good news is that the patient wasn’t in trouble. What she didn’t realize is that the “time out” noted in her medical record referred to a crucial safety step that doctors are supposed to take before medical procedures and surgeries. Members of the medical team take a “time out” immediately before starting their work to triple check that the right procedure is being performed on the right patient and on the correct body part. (While medical errors can still happen, this protocol has drastically reduced “wrong site” surgeries, in which doctors mistakenly operate on the left leg, for example, rather than the right one.)

But misunderstandings like this are becoming more common as patients gain access to their electronic medical records. Many hospital systems now offer convenient portals where patients can check in for appointments, send notes to their doctor and read lab results and medical records.

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