In an increasingly electronic and accessible medical world, physicians and patients have more and more channels of communication available to them. But when it comes to their own records — particularly doctors’ notes — very few patients take the opportunity to read them even though they have the legal right to do so.
Researchers believe that sharing physicians’ notes with patients “could improve understanding of their health, foster productive communication, stimulate shared decision making, and ultimately lead to better outcomes.” That is the basis of the “OpenNotes” initiative — a demonstration and evaluation project to be launched this summer in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington, in which more than 100 primary care physicians (PCPs) are inviting their patients to read their visit notes through secure electronic patient portals.
The current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine says the OpenNotes demonstration and evaluation project is evaluating the expectations and subsequent experiences of both patients and their PCPs. More than 100 PCPs have volunteered for the project, and about 25 000 patients who are registered portal users will be able to access their visit notes online for 12 months. Through their institutions’ secure Web sites, the physicians are inviting patients by e-mail to view their PCPs’ signed notes after a visit and again before a subsequent visit.
The bottom-line evaluation of OpenNotes, according to the researchers, to be assessed primarily through Web-based surveys, is straightforward: Will patients and providers want to continue online access to notes when the year-long study ends? What are your thoughts?