Pushing the Envelope of Electronic Patient Portals to Engage Patients

The use of electronic health records continues to increase while engaging patients to use patient portals is becoming more common. This editorial discusses OpenNotes, an experiment where patients were allowed to access their primary care providers’ electronic notes via patient portals.

The results of the year-long experiment show that OpenNotes may become the new norm as the use of patient portals increases along with the use of electronic health records. Still, there remain some unanswered questions. Will providers change their language or tone in their messages knowing that patients can view them?  Will there be an increase in provider office time and documentation? Will patients’ attitudes about their care be affected?

Key Findings:

  • Providers and patients from the three centers involved in the study voiced positive outcomes and the attitudes of patients who accessed their notes were largely positive.

As patients continue using online health information for themselves, it is important for primary care providers to notice this shift and embrace the concept. Open access to provider notes may not be beneficial for all patient populations. As the use of online medical information increases, it is important to understand how a feature like OpenNotes can help improve patient care.

OpenNotes, a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was developed to demonstrate and evaluate the impact on both patients and clinicians of fully sharing (through an electronic patient portal) all encounter notes between patients and their primary care providers.

Hear health care leaders talk about OpenNotes and how it has transformed patient care at their facilities.

Hear health care leaders talk about OpenNotes and how it has transformed patient care at their facilities.

Hear health care leaders talk about OpenNotes and how it has transformed patient care at their facilities.

Read what people are saying about the study...

...In The Wall Street Journal: "Access to doctors' notes aids patients' treatment"

...On CNN's The Chart blog: "Study: Doctors should share notes with you"

...On Reuters.com: "Patients like reading their doctors' notes: study"

...On ConsumerReports.org: "Patient access to their doctor's notes leads to better care, study finds"

...On The Boston Globle's White Coat Notes blog: "Beth Israel Deaconess study: Letting patients read doctors’ visit notes has positive impact"