There’s been a great thread on Dr. Wes’ blog and the SPM listserv about patients obtaining and reading their own EKG’s. As you can imagine — lots of pros and cons. A significant difference noted between the right to have the information (“tracing”) and the ability to interpret the tracing and use it to guide health management. The first is black and white to me: of course we can have our EKGs. The interpretation and use of the interpretation is more gray.
When my son was 10 years old I was heavily involved in teaching Advanced Cardiac Life Support ACLS; that was 25 years ago. We home schooled. I took him to most of the classes I taught — 20 or more of them over a couple of years. He became very interested and studied the heart rhythms (EKGs), intubation (putting a breathing tube in through the throat), the algorithms (procedure for managing a code including recognizing heart rhythms, selecting the correct medication, and breathing), and leading a code. He studied and rehearsed a lot. He passed the test! He put some physicians, including cardiologists, to shame. I’m not sure of the implication of this anecdote, but it fits somehow.
I find it ironic that we can question owning and possessing our health information more than owning a gun. What is wrong with this picture?
We are a at home heart monitoring service. Once a patient completes an assessment, I prescribe the patient a Zio Patch. The patch records up to 14 days of heart rhythm. I do give the results to the patient when finished, but I also give an interpretation of what the recording offered as well. Thereafter, I encourage my patient to share this information with their doctor. We like our patient to take charge of their own healthcare.
Taking into account that a recent study shows that 40% of doctors’ diagnoses are incorrect, it seems we have a pretty good chance of getting it right ourselves…Seriously though, I think we have to distinguish between reading and interpreting. These are two quite different things.
Obtaining your tracing also helps in getting second opinions more easily. I have been approached by friends and family to give my unofficial opinion on tracings. After hearing the opinion of the first physician, I do sometimes encourage my relatives to make an appointment with another physician for a second opinion.