Research led by UCLA professor on ‘OpenNotes’ model finds that follow-up emails are critical to keeping patients in the know
A study led by Dr. John Mafi, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has found that a simple note from a primary care doctor can be a critical way to keep patients involved in their own health care.
The research, published today in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, examined a growing national program that provides patients with easy online access to their doctors’ notes about their appointments.
The program, OpenNotes, began in 2010, when 105 primary care physicians invited nearly 14,000 of their patients to view their electronic notes about their clinic visits. The initiative was intended to better engage patients in their own care and improve communication between patients and their doctors.
It turned out to be quite a success: Patients demonstrated better recall of their medical plans, felt more in control of their care and were more likely to take their medications. Doctors found that sharing their notes with patients had little negative impact on their workflow. Five years later, more than 5 million patients are participating in the OpenNotes movement. And recently, four nonprofits contributed a total of $10 million to expand the program to 50 million patients.
But even as the program began to grow, two major questions arose: Would patients continue to access the notes after the initial enthusiasm died down? And, how important were the doctors’ reminders in prompting patients to remain active participants in their own care?
The study suggests that the reminders are indeed very important. Led by Mafi, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the Geffen School, the researchers found that patients tended to view clinic notes substantially less once they stopped receiving the reminders, while patients who continued receiving them tended to continue accessing the notes.
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