OpenNotes Study Kicks Off, May Transform Doctor/Patient Communications

Jun 7, 2010, 3:45 AM, Posted by RWJF Blog Team

As the push for greater transparency and patient engagement in health care gains momentum, we’re supporting a new study that examines what happens when you add a new layer of openness to a traditionally one-sided element of the doctor-patient relationship – the notes that doctors record during and after patients’ visits. Beginning today, the OpenNotes project will evaluate the impact on both patients and physicians of sharing, through online medical record portals, the observations made by physicians after each patient encounter.

More than 100 primary care physicians and 25,000 patients across three sites – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle – will participate in the 12-month trial. The study is led by primary care physician Tom Delbanco, MD and Jan Walker, RN, MBA, both of whom are on staff at BIDMC and on the faculty of Harvard Medical School.

Doctors have mixed opinions about opening up the notes they record to patients. However, according to RWJF Assistant Vice President Steve Downs, this subtle change could “reposition notes to be for the patient instead of about the patient, which might have a powerful impact on the doctor-patient relationship and, in the long run, lead to better care.”

We’re interested in hearing your thoughts – both from doctors and patients – on how this type of new access could transform the way medical care is managed.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.