Last summer I looked at a study that was exploring the value inherent in allowing patients access to their medical notes.
The study saw over 100 doctors share their notes with around 14,000 patients. The findings were overwhelmingly positive, for both doctors and their patients. More than 85% of the patients given access to their notes regularly accessed them, with the benefits quite wide ranging.
“Different patients get different things from reading the notes,” said Jan Walker, principal associate in medicine at Harvard Medical School. She and Dr. Tom Delbanco, a professor of medicine at Harvard, were the principal investigators for the project.
Some, for instance, used the notes to spur changes in lifestyle and behaviour. Others reported that reading their notes gave them a feeling of greater control over their care, whilst those prescribed drugs felt the notes were helpful in the correct application of those drugs.
What’s more, nearly half of patients shared their notes with others, especially with spouses or family members. The project also proved popular with doctors, and overcame their initial fears that it would be time consuming.
So opening up notes to patients is a pretty good thing. One company that’s trying to help the process along is OurNotes.
Their platform not only hopes to allow patients to view their medical records, but also to contribute to them. It’s currently being researched at the Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, as well as at a few other sites around the US.
It’s part of a national initiative known as OpenNotes, which pledges to open up medical records for patients. Some five million patients are already utilizing this access.
The hope is that OurNotes will be especially valuable for patients with complex health issues as it will allow them to make notes around visits to ensure the questions they have are covered.
Likewise, it also allows the doctor to see in advance what the patient is curious about and to ensure they have the best information and advise to hand.
It’s also hoping to encourage patients to review their treatment afterwards and to sign-off any notes they receive from their doctor to ensure that everyone understands what information has been shared.
The hope is that this will not only make things better for the patient but also lead to higher quality care from doctors also.