Offering patients online access to medical records, including doctors’ visit notes, holds considerable potential to improve care. However, patients may worry about loss of privacy when accessing personal health information through Internet-based patient portals. The OpenNotes study provided patients at three US health care institutions with online access to their primary care doctors’ notes and then collected survey data about their experiences, including their concerns about privacy before and after participation in the intervention.
At a time of societal fascination both with transparency and the explosion of health information technologies, a growing number of hospitals are offering, or will soon offer patients and their family instantaneous access to their doctors’ and nurses’ notes. What will this new opportunity for patient engagement mean for the hospitalist? Today, state and federal government regulations either encourage or require healthcare providers to grant patients access to their clinical information. But despite the rules embedded in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), patients often face time-consuming obstacles in their quest for access, and many providers view compliance as a burden. We suggest an alternative view: Over time, we anticipate that inviting patients to review their medical record will reduce risk, increase knowledge, foster active engagement, and help them take more control of their care. The OpenNotes trial provides clues as to how such practice will affect both patients and providers (1, 2). We anticipate that transparent records will stimulate hospitalists, PCPs, and other caregivers to improve communication throughout the patient’s hospital stay. OpenNotes offers a special opportunity for improving the patient experience after leaving the hospital as well. Open notes will be viewed by many as a disruptive change, and the best strategy for adapting will be to move proactively to create policies that establish clear guidelines, for which the authors offer some suggestions.
Full sharing of the electronic health record with patients has been identified as an important opportunity to engage patients in their health and health care. The My HealtheVet Pilot, the initial personal health record of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, allowed patients and their delegates to view and download content in their electronic health record, including clinical notes, laboratory tests, and imaging reports.
As the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) spreads, health-care organizations are increasingly offering patients online access to their medical records. Studies evaluating patient attitudes towards viewing elements of their records through secure, electronic patient portals have generally not included medically underserved patients or those with HIV/AIDS. The goal of this study was to gain insight into such patients’ attitudes towards online access to their medical records, including their doctors’ visit notes.
These days, commentary about bankers, politicians, or school systems is almost invariably accompanied by a call for “increased transparency.” And it’s not different for us in medicine. Spurred by electronic technologies, black boxes are being torn open right and left, bringing disruptive changes to both doctors and patients. We applaud these changes and argue that attendant benefits will far outweigh risks. And whether you agree or not, it’s probably futile to try to interfere with an unstoppable progression.