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Will patient health improve if they read the doctor's notes?

75043599In 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?

Read the full abstract here.


  1. I think it is beneficial for all people to know their charts so they can read -up and better understand their illnesses and to figure their best course of action. Also to investigate Herbal remedies, etc. The more you read the better informed you are to extend your life. Now if we could only eliminate stress and increase Love we would have it made. What say you.Also share your knowledge.

  2. Erica Barden,CPC

    Patients can always google what they don’t understand! lol
    With the physician’s notes available to the patient, on a subsequent visit it would give the patient a chance to dicuss with the dr. his/her concerns with something that was written in the chart.

  3. Having access to the notes is one thing, but being able to understand what they mean is quite another. As with every profession, it is quite possible for the members of the profession to carry on a conversation without a third party having much chance of understanding anything. If the notes are to be of value to patients, physicians will have to go out of their way to convert their notes to plain English or attempt to educate patients on the terminology being used. In my mind, this is the biggest barrier to patient involvement in such an activity.

  4. It will be interesting to follow the success of this project and the extension of the platform to historical records such as scanned charts, test results, and other documents included in their EHR.

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