Providing patients with access to their physician's notes benefits those patients and does not add to a doctor's workload, according to a new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The one-year quasi-experimental study of 105 primary care physicians and 13,564 patients conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, and Harborview Medical Center in Washington alerted patients by email each time their physician posted a note about the patient into the patient's electronic health record. The patient then could access the note through a patient portal.
A large majority opened at least some or all of the notes, and reported an increased sense of control, greater understanding of their medical issue, improved recall of their plans of care, and better preparation for future visits. A whopping 99 percent of patients surveyed recommended that this transparency continue; almost 90 percent believed that open notes would affect their decision when seeking care in the future.
Three out of five patients agreed that the concept should be expanded to allow patients to be able to add to the notes.
The physicians, who initially were concerned that allowing patients to view their notes would increase their burdens and/or worry or offend patients, found that the note-sharing strengthened relationships with some patients and may have improved patient satisfaction and safety, reinforced office visits and provided additional patient education. Almost three-fourths (74 percent) reported that the open access did not cause changes in their practice.
The study's authors suggested that "open notes may be a powerful intervention for improving the health of patients and point to many avenues for future elaboration and inquiry."
Studies have shown that patient access to their EHRs can reduce discrepancies and improve patient safety. They can also boost member loyalty and retain membership.