OpenNotes initiative expands to Northwest health organizations

Prodded by the nonprofit group, We Can Do Better, nine prominent health organizations in Oregon and Southwest Washington will open electronic doctor notes to their patients via the OpenNotes initiative, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The participating organizations--Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University, Providence Medical Group Oregon, The Portland Clinic, The Vancouver Clinic, Portland VA Medical Center, OCHIN and Salem Health--serve more than 1 million patients. All have pledged to provide access to doctor notes in 2014 or 2015.

Some already do. Veterans Affairs hospitals have offered open notes since January 2013. Meanwhile, OCHIN, an Oregon-based nonprofit health information network that operates in 18 states, has offered open notes at 78 safety net clinics (nearly half in Oregon) since December.

"This regional collaboration, remarkable both for its nature and the number of patients involved, represents a tremendous step toward engaging patients more actively in their care. In fact, it may prove pivotal in establishing full transparency as the national standard of care," Tom Delbanco, the Richard and Florence Koplow - James Tullis Professor of General Medicine and Primary Care at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. Deblanco also serves as co-director of OpenNotes, which is funded primarily by RWJF.

Results from OpenNotes research at three major health systems published last fall--Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle--found patients concerned about their privacy. However, according to they study's authors, such concerns did not deter participants from accessing their notes, "suggesting that the benefits of online access to medical records may outweigh patients' perceived risks to privacy," they said.

While providers have their concerns about giving access to their notes--primarily that patients will misinterpret what is written--a survey published last year found that docs supported allowing patients to update their records, but only only 31 percent favored granting full access.

To learn more:
- read the announcement