OpenNotes assists with transparency, patient engagement

Medical records
Users say OpenNotes can help patients better understand their health conditions.

As more health systems are integrating OpenNotes into their facilities, the benefits of allowing patients to view their medical records are becoming clearer.

One primary benefit is increased transparency between patients and doctors, Eric Topol, M.D., a cardiologist and professor of genomics at The Scripps Research Institute, told U.S. News & World Report. According to Topol, there has been a long-standing undercurrent of "medical paternalism" among physicians, but the OpenNotes platform allows patients to correct mistakes and be more involved in their care.

“Notes are fraught with errors when they’ve been audited,” Topol said. “So why not have the patients involved? It’s their care, it’s their body. They paid for the visit one way or another. But yet they have no work product.”

Patients said they would like the access to medical tests. Richard Martin, M.D., a family physician at a Geisinger-owned family clinic, said OpenNotes also allows patients to review dietary or lifestyle recommendations they may have forgotten about during the appointment.

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Geisinger Health System was an early adopter of OpenNotes. The system found that patients and providers were more likely to agree on a treatment plan, and patients had better understanding of their health conditions.  

The co-founders of OpenNotes told U.S. News that 12.7 million patients have access to the system, but their goal is to provide access to 50 million by 2020. Tom Delbanco, M.D., co-founder and a professor of medicine at Harvard University, believes OpenNotes will become the standard for care in the future.

Though some doctors say they became less candid when using OpenNotes, others advocated for frank but caring notes to help patients understand their health condition. Another study published last year showed that OpenNotes helped clear up misunderstandings between doctors and patients.