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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sharing doctors’ Open Notes with patients

Jan Walker and her colleagues just published an article about patients' and doctors' attitudes toward sharing doctors' appointment progress notes with patients. In an interview, she described some of the most interesting findings:

We ran the Open Notes experiment at three sites, in urban/suburban Boston, rural Pennsylvania, and inner-city Seattle over 12 months, through this summer. The published article discusses the results of surveys, before the experiment began, of both the doctors and patients about the idea of open notes. According to these findings, patient expect that reading notes will help them understand their health and conditions better. The team also surveyed patients and doctors after the 12 month period, to find out what actually happened, and hopes to publish those findings in spring/summer 2012.

So, results are pending, but the researchers have heard some stories along the way of impacts of sharing notes, and are sometimes catching things. Early on, there was a doctor who called to mention his first experience with Open Notes, saying that at an appointment with a patient, he’d mentioned a test, but had forgotten to order it. The patient read Open Notes and told the doctor the test hadn’t been ordered, and asked that it be ordered. As another example, we had a patient who went home after her appointment and thought, I remember the doctor said three things, but I forgot one of them. So she read the note, in which the doctor advised that she should check out a spot on her skin. So she had a Dermatology appointment, which was a good thing, as it turned out that the spot DID need medical attention.

So things that were missed may be picked up earlier. One doctor, who’d been dragged somewhat reluctantly into this project, said, “a few months in, I felt safer because there are more eyes”; medical care is so complicated, that the extra set of eyes really helps. We had approval to run the experiment for 12 months. At the end of the study, we notified the doctors that the official study period was ended and that they could certainly drop out and we would turn it off. Not one doctor asked to have Open Notes turned off.

This could create more trust between doctors and patients, by opening the black box, and making all this less mysterious than patients may have thought. Some patients, we learned to our surprise in the focus groups, don’t realize that doctors write notes about the visit. Patients don’t all know they have a legal right to their medical records, in the Federal HIPAA law.

We thought that the younger, more tech savvy, better educated patients would be very interested in the doctor’s notes, but not necessarily older, less savvy or educated patients. But across the board, everybody is interested. That really surprised us.

Jan’s advice: Even if your doctor doesn’t use an electronic medical record, ask to get a copy of the doctor’s note about your visit.

The article appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. Thanks to Jemma Weymouth and Morgan Warners of Burness Communications for connecting me with Jan.

Read another article on a provider that gives even their woofing patients access to their progress notes.

1 comment:

Coupons said...

I think making it easier for patients to review their notes is a great idea, as long as it doesn't put their privacy at undue risk.