“Information wants to be free.” This adage, attributed to Stewart Brand,1 has often been invoked in the internet era to suggest that, as logistical barriers to access come down, individuals should have free access to all types of information, in any manner of their choosing. Unfettered access to data, music, education, and other services has been the guiding principle and promise of the electronically connected modern world. However, the actual costs of “free” information have gradually become apparent, such as the data mining and surveillance of individuals used to finance internet search and social media, and the proliferation of online misinformation from unreliable sources. Transparency in the transmission of medical information to patients is a major emerging issue in modern health care. Although benefits, such as patient empowerment and engagement are becoming clear, the potential unintended consequences of complete patient access to health data are not yet known. Could completely free health information end up being expensive?
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Miller D. Transparency in Patient Access to Dermatopathologic Reports. JAMA Dermatol. 2020;156(3):252–253. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.4121
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