Patients have unprecedented online access to their medical records. More than 6 million Americans can now read their doctors’ notes via patient portals, and continued rapid growth is likely. Sharing notes with patients may yield important health benefits, including increased patient empowerment and improved medication adherence. Seeing written information, including notes, helps patients remember the plan of care, reinforces patients’ positive behaviors, and strengthens the patient–doctor alliance.
Many healthcare organizations are striving to improve patient engagement by facilitating patient access to clinical notes in the electronic health record (EHR) via patient portals. The University of Washington Health System (UW Medicine) in Seattle, WA, was an early participant in research on patient portals as one of the three OpenNotes study sites.
Since the time of this study, the OpenNotes initiative has now grown into a national movement to improve patient engagement by granting patients the ability to view clinical notes in the EHR. Based on UW Medicine’s positive experience during the pilot study, the organization opened patient access to all clinical notes via an electronic portal throughout its entire health system.
Patient advocates and safety experts encourage adoption of transparent health records, but sceptics worry that shared notes may offend patients, erode trust or promote defensive medicine. As electronic health records disseminate, such disparate views fuel policy debates about risks and benefits of sharing visit notes with patients through portals.
OpenNotes is a growing national initiative inviting patients to read clinician progress notes (open notes) through a secure electronic portal. The goals of this study were to (1) identify resident and faculty preceptor attitudes about sharing notes with patients, and (2) assess specific educational needs, policy recommendations, and approaches to facilitate open notes implementation.
As millions of patients nationwide increasingly gain access to clinicians’ notes, explicit email invitations to review notes may be important for fostering patient engagement and patient-doctor communication.
As health care costs alarm the nation and the debate increases about the impact of health information technologies, patients are reviewing their medical records increasingly through secure Internet portals. Important questions remain about the impact of portal use on office visits.
Availability of notes following PCP visits was associated with improved adherence by patients prescribed antihypertensive, but not antihyperlipidemic, medications. As the use of fully transparent records spreads, patients invited to read their clinicians’ notes may modify their behaviors in clinically valuable ways.
The OpenNotes movement began in 2010 with the goal of fostering patient engagement in care and enhancing communication among patients, families, and clinicians. In a demonstration and evaluation study, 1 105 primary care physicians in three cities collectively invited 20,000 of their patients to read their visit notes through a secure electronic portal. After the first year, patients reported many benefits, including feeling more in control of their health, being more prepared for visits, and taking their medications with greater adherence. Physicians saw benefits with little burden, and none chose to stop participating when the pilot ended. Today, the OpenNotes movement has grown from 20,000 patients to about 5 million patients at multiple health care institutions nationwide.
Patients living with HIV/AIDS face large societal and medical challenges. Inviting patients to read their doctors’ visit notes via secure electronic portals may empower patients and improve health. We investigated whether utilization and perceptions about access to doctors’ notes differed among doctors and patients in an HIV/AIDS clinic versus primary care setting. We analyzed pre- and 1-year postintervention data from 99 doctors and 3819 patients. HIV clinic patients did not report differences in perceived risks and benefits compared to primary care clinic patients, however, they were more likely to share notes with friends (33% versus 9%, P = .002), other health professionals (24% versus 8%, P = .03), or another doctor (38% versus 9%, P < .0001). HIV clinic doctors were less likely than primary care doctors to change the level of candor in visit notes (P < .04). Our findings suggest that HIV clinic patients and doctors are ready to share visit notes online.
Objective To explore the experience of early patient adopters who accessed their clinical notes online using the Blue Button feature of the My HealtheVet portal.
Methods A web-based survey of VA patient portal users from June 22 to September 15, 2013.
Results 33.5% of respondents knew that clinical notes could be viewed, and nearly one in four (23.5%) said that they had viewed their notes at least once. The majority of VA Notes users agreed that accessing their notes will help them to do a better job of taking medications as prescribed (80.1%) and be better prepared for clinic visits (88.6%). Nine out of 10 users agreed that use of visit notes will help them understand their conditions better (91.8%), and better remember the plan for their care (91.9%). In contrast, 87% disagreed that VA Notes will make them worry more, and 88.4% disagreed that access to VA Notes will be more confusing than helpful. Users who had either contacted their provider or healthcare team (11.9%) or planned to (13.5%) primarily wanted to learn more about a health issue, medication, or test results (53.7%).
Conclusions Initial assessment of the patient experience within the first 9 months of availability provides evidence that patients both value and benefit from online access to clinical notes. These findings are congruent with OpenNotes study findings on a broader scale. Additional outreach and education is needed to enhance patient awareness. Healthcare professionals should author notes keeping in mind the opportunity patient access presents for enhanced communication.