Inviting Patients to Read Their Doctors' Notes

Jan 10, 2012, 4:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Will patients be more likely to seek a second or third opinion? New York Times

Will reading your doctor's notes lead to better health? USA Today

Can Patients Handle the Truth? TIME

These questions and others were posed following the release of OpenNotes’ findings about patient and doctor attitudes toward opening doctors’ medical notes to patients. The survey of nearly 38,000 patients and 173 primary care physicians revealed patients were enthusiastic about the prospect of reading their doctors’ notes while doctors were cautious.

Patients who signed up for the project, such as Linda Johnson, 63, a Harborview patient,  told The Seattle Times she found the notes helpful in recalling what she and her doctors had talked about and how she was supposed to follow up. "I have found, as I get older, I need more visits to the doctor, and there are more things we need to talk about…I find having them written down helps a lot." Patient Candice Wolk, a 39-year-old mother of twins, told the New York Times that reading her notes after a pregnancy check-up reminded her to follow-up with a dermatologist to have a dark spot on her back checked. 

Doctors enrolled in the project also shared their thoughts. David Ives, MD, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess, told American Medical News he thinks OpenNotes is a rousing success, saying “The patients loved it, and it had absolutely no impact on me really at all. It was amazing how little impact it had.”

Bloggers chimed in too, including patient advocate Trisha Torrey who called on her readers to “continue to encourage your doctor to share your records –  to provide easy access to you” and Ted Eytan, who wrote that “here’s something in health care that most patients want to receive, but not all doctors want to provide.”

The media stories and blog posts such as those on The Health Care Blog, TIME’s Healthland Blog, NPR’s Shots Blog, and Vitals on MSNBC.com sparked conversations and debate and were shared widely through social networks.  You can join the conversation by commenting on these stories or tweeting @myopennotes or @pioneerrwjf.

Looking ahead, one thing is clear: the final results of OpenNotes, due later this year, are eagerly awaited and have the potential to spur real change in the way doctors share information with patients about their health and health care.

OpenNotes is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio. The survey results were published December 19, 2011, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.