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.
Patient Portals that allow viewing of clinical notes and hospital discharge summaries: the University of Washington OpenNotes implementation experience
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.
ABSTRACT Background Despite growing interest in engaging patients and families (P/F) in patient safety education, little is known about how P/F can best contribute. We assessed the feasibility and acceptability of a patient–teacher medical error disclosure and prevention training model. Methods We developed an educational intervention bringing together interprofessional clinicians with P/F from hospital advisory councils to discuss error disclosure and prevention. Patient focus groups and orientation sessions informed curriculum and assessment design. A pre-post survey with qualitative and quantitative questions was used to assess P/F and clinician experiences and attitudes about collaborative safety education including participant hopes, fears, perceived value of learning experience and challenges. Responses to open-ended questions were coded according to principles of content analysis.
Millions of patients are accessing their medical records online via secure electronic patient portals. They are also increasingly uploading data directly into their records, and many clinicians now offer patients ready and ongoing access to the notes that document encounters. In response, patients report improved understanding of their care, better recall, enhanced adherence to care plans, and an increased sense of control over their health.
Background 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.
Methods Presurveys and postsurvey from 99 volunteer doctors at three US sites who participated in OpenNotes and postsurveys from 4592 patients who read at least one note and submitted a survey.
Results Patients read notes to be better informed and because they were curious; about a third read them to check accuracy. In total, 7% (321) of patients reported contacting their doctor’s office about their note. Of these, 29% perceived an error, and 85% were satisfied with its resolution.
Patient and family engagement is gaining attention as a priority in patient care1 and medical education.2 OpenNotes, an innovation that invites patients to read their visit notes through a secure online portal, has demonstrated several health benefits.3 Over five million U.S. patients have online access to their notes today; shared visit notes may not only engage patients in care but also open the door to new educational innovations.
Intrigued by the idea of patient/family feedback on visit notes, our research team asked residents and their supervisors whether such feedback would be helpful.4 In surveys and focus groups, many agreed it would be.
As soon as the elevator door closed, the tears gave way, and I walked home with my head down … thoughts of my mistakes running rampant.
So began the reflection of a third-year medical student, who described falling short of his residents’ expectations on a history and physical examination. The crucial flaw? He had taken too long. His reflection continued:
[The next day], an elderly patient, traction stockings covering her small, dark brown legs, shuffled toward me. She stopped directly in front of me, her delicate, slightly stooped frame supported by her thin hand, grasping the IV pole. “Young man,” she said, “I heard you speaking to the patient in the bed next to me [last night]. And I just wanted you to know that I’m just so proud of you.… How you spoke to that patient with such care and intelligence. I’m just so proud.”
Objective To describe the characteristics and online practices of patients and “care partners” who share explicit access to a patient portal account at a large integrated health system that implemented shared access functionality in 2003.
Materials and Methods Survey of 323 patients and 389 care partners at Geisinger Health System with linked information regarding access and use of patient portal functionality.
Results Few (0.4%) registered adult patient portal users shared access to their account. Patients varied in age (range: 18–102); more than half had a high school education or less (53.6%). Patient motivations for sharing access included: to help manage care (41.9%), for emergency reasons (29.7%), lack of technology experience (18.4%), or care partner request (10.0%).
In its landmark report Crossing the Quality Chasm, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) identified six aims for shaping the future of health care.1 The report argued that care should be safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable. Some of these aims necessitate trade-offs with each other. For example, prioritizing effectiveness may constrain efficiency, or efficiency may compromise timeliness. Although there is no inherent conflict between effective care and patient-centered care, clinical practice guidelines and quality metrics often emphasize effectiveness over patient-centered care. In this article, in lieu of “patient-centered care,” which the IOM defined as “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions,”1(p. 6) we use the term personalized care.
Objective To examine whether patients invited to review their clinicians’ notes continue to access them and to assess the impact of reminders on whether patients continued to view notes.
Materials and methods We followed OpenNotes trial participants for 2 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Geisinger Health System (GHS). Electronic invitations alerting patients to signed notes stopped at GHS after year 1, creating a natural experiment to assess the impact of reminders. We used generalized linear models to measure whether notes were viewed within 30 days of availability.