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Patients wish to receive a copy of their outpatient clinic letter

Patients who receive a copy of their outpatient (medical) letter after attending a vascular clinic value it and understand its contents. This is the conclusion of a study with the title “A survey of patient views on receiving vascular outpatient letters”, published in the “European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery”, Jan. 2010.

The researchers, vascular surgeons at a university hospital in New Zealand, sent a copy of the outpatient letter to 100 patients attending the clinic along with a questionnaire. The study showed that in their vast majority (90-100%) the patients found the letter useful and easy to understand, and they wished to receive more such letters in the future.

Today, improved communication between clinicians and patients is observed. Sending copies of clinician letters to patients is one of several steps which are part of a growing shift towards information sharing between patients and health professionals. As well as increasing patient understanding of their condition, it is also proposed that copying patients into communication may increase patient satisfaction, improve compliance, promote trust and honesty, and strengthen the doctor–patient relationship.

In the UK, a recent initiative (2000) from the National Health Service recommends that all clinician letters should be copied to patients (each time they consult them).