Earlier this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) embraced OpenNotes, enabling more than 1 million veterans who currently have access to the VA personal health record to view or download their own medical notes along with their health record information via the My HealtheVet Blue Button. In a recently published study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), the VA’s Susan Woods, MD, MPH, a longtime champion of open access and transparency, examined patients’ views and experiences with reading their health records, including clinical notes. The study is the first qualitative look at VA patients’ experiences viewing electronic records that included clinical notes and lab test results. Woods and her colleagues showed that viewing records and notes appeared to empower patients and increase their involvement in their own care but Woods says new communication skills will be needed to optimize the user experience.
In a recent interview, Woods discussed the power of open medical notes for patients and clinicians.
What has been the biggest concern that doctors and others have raised about open notes?
Clinicians worry that opening notes may cause patients stress, or feel that reading notes may even cause patients harm. Clinicians feel vulnerable, with concerns about being judged or that their workload will increase. They worry more time will be spent explaining things to patients or responding to a rise in emails from patients trying to decipher their notes. Such concerns are valid, but the increasing experience and research suggest that these assumptions won’t entirely be borne out.
Read the full interview here.