Online access to doctors notes improves patient care

Patients who have access to doctor’s notes in their medical records are more likely to understand their health issues, recall what the doctor told them and take their medications as prescribed, according to a study.

Inviting patients to read their doctors’ notes improves patient engagement, understanding, and compliance in health care plans without increasing physician workload.

Researchers surveyed 105 primary care physicians and 13,564 patients who had their doctors’ notes made available to them through an electronic portal during a one-year voluntary program.

Of the 5,391 patients who reviewed at least one note and completed the survey, up to 87 percent reported that the open notes program made them feel more in control of their care, and up to 78 percent reported increased adherence to medications.

Nearly all (99 percent) of the patients who responded felt that the program should continue, but approximately one-third expressed concerns about privacy.

Initially, physicians said they feared open notes would add time to office visits and administrative tasks and could worry or offend patients. However, the doctors reported that their concerns never materialized. When asked to describe the most difficult aspect of the open notes program, 74 percent of the 104 physicians who responded said that nothing was difficult and that they experienced no changes in their practice.

In an accompanying editorial, a patient who participated in the study shares that in his parents’ day, patients did not question a physician, even if information could ease suffering. In his own experience with a serious illness, the author expressed gratitude the he was empowered to increase his chances of survival through the transparency of open notes. The author writes that “passivity robs patients of a wide range of steps that they, and only they, can take toward improved well-being.”

Doctors are required by federal law to provide patients with a copy of their medical notes upon request, but few patients ask and doctors generally don’t make the process easy.

Source: American College of Physicians, USA



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