Researchers: OpenNotes strengthens patient-doctor relationships

Transparency via the OpenNotes initiative is creating stronger patient-physician relationships in the face of concern that note sharing might be offensive to patients, new research shows.

The study, published in BMJ, finds that both doctors and patients are optimistic about the initiative's results, so far. Of 99 doctors who were surveyed, 53 percent said they thought patient satisfaction increased after one year, while just over half (51 percent) said they thought their patients trusted them more.

Meanwhile, of the 4,592 patients surveyed, only 7 percent said they contacted their doctor's office about something in the note, 29 percent of whom discovered errors. Eighty-five percent of those patients said they were "satisfied" with how their doctor handled the issue. In addition, nearly one-third of all surveyed patients said they read notes to check accuracy.

Asked whether reading notes changed how they felt about the doctor, most patients reporting feeling the same (62 percent) or better (37 percent) about their physician. 

Many of the same researchers involved also worked on a study published in February that determined one of the biggest benefits of OpenNotes to be the clarification of misunderstandings between patients and clinicians.

Still, the same authors determined in another study, also published in February, that electronic reminders are essential to keeping patients engaged in reading their doctors' notes.

"Despite concerns about errors, offending language or defensive practice, transparent notes overall did not harm the patient-doctor relationship," the researchers said. "The findings suggest transparent records may improve patient satisfaction, trust and safety."

OpenNotes Co-Director Tom Delbanco, at the recent Population Health Forum in Boston, said doctors participating in the initiative eventually will shift to writing notes more for patients instead of for themselves, MobiHealthNews reported.

To learn more:
- check out the BMJ study
- read the MobiHealthNews article