Yesterday, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released the program rule on Interoperability, Information Blocking, and ONC Health IT Certification. Reflecting the intent of the 21st Century Cures Act passed in 2016, this rule requires that patients be offered access to all the health information in their electronic medical records without charge by the provider, including the notes their clinicians write.
As an international movement sponsored by philanthropy that both advocates for transparent communication and studies the effects of open notes on clinicians and patients, we are thrilled to see this regulatory change. Research by us and others demonstrates that easy access to outpatient notes imposes few burdens on clinicians. Patients and their families report that reading their notes results in better understanding of their health conditions; feeling more in control of their care; improved recall of the content of visits; the ability to spot and rectify mistakes before they lead to harm; and increased adherence to medications and care plans.
OpenNotes started on this journey 10 years ago, and today institutions and health systems offer more than 45 million Americans electronic access to their clinicians’ notes through patient portals. But flipping a switch to make notes available does not mean patients are able to find and use them. Truly meaningful efforts by health care organizations to implement programs that offer patients and their families the optimal value of fully transparent communication should be the next goal for patients, families and clinicians.
Yesterday’s news is a big step forward for all patients. We know clinicians and healthcare organizations will have questions about how to start sharing notes with patients. Visit OpenNotes.org to find existing resources about how to implement note sharing. And stay tuned: We are developing new resources specific to the new Program Rule which will be available on our website in the coming weeks.
Catherine M. DesRoches, DrPH
Executive Director, OpenNotes