Let's Show Patients Their Mental Health Records

Doctor talking with a patient.

Patients with easy access to their doctors' notes feel more in control of their care and better understand their medical issues.

The Issue:

With the exception of the Department of Veterans Affairs, medical notes written about “behavioral health” are being excluded from the open records approach. In an opinion piece in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, principle investigators from the OpenNotes project and a psychiatrist from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston outline how open access to medical notes can reduce stigma and is beneficial to patients struggling with mental health issues.   

Key Finding:

  • A nonjudgmental approach to describing mental illness behaviors, rather than labeling the issue with complex medical terminology, benefits both the patient and the clinician by altering the clinician-patient dynamic in a positive way.


The ability to read accurate and nonjudgmental notes may help patients address their mental health problems. While sharing a patients’ assessment of hypertension is indeed much different than sharing results about behaviors or feelings, the authors conclude that it’s time to offer fully transparent care to patients with mental illness.

About the Study:

The authors are from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Funding for this work was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's OpenNotes initiative.