Geisinger Gives Patients Access to Doctors’ Notes

    • May 8, 2013

DANVILLE, Pa.—More than 100,000 Geisinger Health System (GHS) patients will have access to their doctors’ notes for the first time through the secure MyGeisinger online patient portal when Geisinger expands OpenNotes in May due to the initiative’s overwhelming success.

The expansion of OpenNotes will include more than 500 Geisinger physicians, encompassing all of primary care and general pediatrics, and selected physicians within pediatric subspecialties, dermatology, endocrinology, pulmonology, nephrology, rheumatology, cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, vascular surgery, neurosurgery, and women’s health including obstetrics and gynecology and gynecologic oncology.

“One of the great challenges in medicine is getting patients involved in their own care,” said Jonathan Darer, M.D., Chief Innovation Officer for the Division of Clinical Innovation at GHS, and Geisinger’s lead investigator on the project. “It’s clear that providing patients access to their doctors’ notes can be a powerful tool in accomplishing that goal.”

Funded through a $1.4 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the 12-month OpenNotes project brought together 105 primary care doctors and more than 19,000 of their patients to evaluate the impact on both patients and physicians of sharing doctors’ notes after each patient encounter. Led by Tom Delbanco, M.D., and Jan Walker, RN, MBA of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), the study included 24 primary care physicians and 8,700 patients at Geisinger, and additional patients and physicians from BIDMC and Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Wash.

Findings from this pilot published in the October 2012 Annals of Internal Medicine indicated that patients enthusiastically supported seeing their medical notes and no doctors said they wanted to opt out at the end of the study.

The study showed that patients read their notes and felt more engaged when they did so. Close to 11,200 patients – approximately 82 percent – opened at least one note contained in their electronic medical record. Of 5,391 patients who opened at least one note, 77 to 87 percent across the three sites reported that OpenNotes made them feel more in control of their care and helped them adhere to their medication regimens.

“To have 82 percent of patients open their notes is astonishing,” Dr. Darer said. “It speaks volumes as to how important this information is to them.”

Only a few patients reported increased worry, confusion or offense due to seeing their doctors’ notes. Eighty-five percent of patients reported that having access to their doctors’ notes would influence their choice of providers in the future.

These findings were in contrast to the concerns voiced by nonparticipating physicians, who worried that giving patients easy access to doctors’ notes would result in additional work for them and could offend patients.

“As doctors, we know that patients generally retain only a portion of the information that is exchanged with their doctor during an office visit,” Dr. Darer said. “One of our hopes with OpenNotes was that facilitating access to doctors’ notes would engage patients and potentially help them remember more of what was discussed during the visit.”

Given the promise that OpenNotes holds for patient engagement, Geisinger expects to offer this to more of its patients in the future. “We are moving very quickly to expand the program to offer this service to as many of our patients as we can,” Dr. Darer said.

“I'm thrilled that one of the nation’s premier health systems, and one of the three initial OpenNotes study sites, is taking this important step to share notes with patients,” said Steve Downs, chief technology and information officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We hope other systems will follow Geisinger’s lead to help patients get information they can use to participate more meaningfully in their care."

About Geisinger Health System

Geisinger Health System is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development of innovative care models such as ProvenHealth Navigator® and ProvenCare®. As the nation’s largest rural health services organization, Geisinger serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. The physician-led system is comprised of more than 20,000 employees, including a 1,000-member multi-specialty group practice, six hospital campuses, two research centers and the 400,000-member Geisinger Health Plan, all of which leverage an estimated $5.5 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy. The health system and the health plan have repeatedly garnered national accolades for integration, quality and service. In addition to fulfilling its patient care mission, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit, or follow the latest Geisinger news and more on Twitter and Facebook.

About OpenNotes

OpenNotes is an initiative to encourage doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to share their notes with patients as a way to improve health and health care. Clinicians can provide patients with access to visit notes electronically, or they can rely on low-tech means by providing print copies of the notes at the end of a visit or later by mail. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @myopennotes.