A Patient's View of OpenNotes

Open access to medical records has the potential for a greater line of communication between doctor and patient—helping improve the health of our society.

In this article, published in the October 2012 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the author discusses the positive outcomes from a year-long experimental study, OpenNotes, where patients could access their doctor’s notes. The pioneering report showed that while some caution and apprehension was originally a concern, they mostly disappeared after the study’s completion.

The author reveals that overcoming concerns and fears of adopting a new system of electronic communication is important. The benefits to the patient and adhering to best practices is of utmost importance. His strong belief in the value of transparency and openness in communication was solidified after a serious medical condition placed him unexpectedly in the shoes of a patient. Thankful for doctors who were willing to adhere to his strong interest in what they were thinking, the author reflects on a time when such openness was not the norm.

Providing open notes to all populations has its challenges. Those with mental illness or patients who have no access to a computer are unable to take advantage of this open communication. The author believes in the potential to overcome these obstacles when the quality of patient care can only increase.

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.