Beyond Known Barriers – Assessing physician perspectives and attitudes towards introducing open health records in Germany: Qualitative study (Preprint)
Journal of Participatory Medicine
Giving patients access to their medical records (ie, open health records) can support doctor-patient communication and patient-centered care and can improve quality of care, patients' health literacy, self-care, and treatment adherence. In Germany, patients are entitled by law to have access to their medical records. However, in practice doing so remains an exception in Germany. So far, research has been focused on organizational implementation barriers. Little is known about physicians'
... es and perspectives toward opening records in German primary care. This qualitative study aims to provide a better understanding of physicians' attitudes toward opening records in primary care in Germany. To expand the knowledge base that future implementation programs could draw from, this study focuses on professional self-conception as an influencing factor regarding the approval for open health records. Perspectives of practicing primary care physicians and advanced medical students were explored. Data were collected through semistructured guide-based interviews with general practitioners (GPs) and advanced medical students. Participants were asked to share their perspectives on open health records in German general practices, as well as perceived implications, their expectations for future medical records, and the conditions for a potential implementation. Data were pseudonymized, audiotaped, and transcribed verbatim. Themes and subthemes were identified through thematic analysis. Barriers and potential advantages were reported by 7 GPs and 7 medical students (N=14). The following barriers were identified: (1) data security, (2) increased workload, (3) costs, (4) the patients' limited capabilities, and (5) the physicians' concerns. The following advantages were reported: (1) patient education and empowerment, (2) positive impact on the practice, and (3) improved quality of care. GPs' professional self-conception influenced their approval for open records: GPs considered their aspiration for professional autonomy and freedom from external control to be threatened and their knowledge-based support of patients to be obstructed by open records. Medical students emphasized the chance to achieve shared decision making through open records and expected the implementation to be realistic in the near future. GPs were more hesitant and voiced a strong resistance toward sharing notes on perceptions that go beyond clinical data. Reliable technical conditions, the participants' consent, and a joint development of the implementation project to meet the GPs' interests were requested. Open health record concepts can be seen as a chance to increase transparency in health care. For a potential future implementation in Germany, thorough consideration regarding the compatibility of GPs' professional values would be warranted. However, the medical students' positive attitude provides an optimistic perspective. Further research and a broad support from decision makers would be crucial to establish open records in Germany.