Reading Doctor’s Notes Can Lead to Better Patients

Patients have always been curious about what their doctors are recording in their medical charts. Soon they may be have open access to read those notes as recent research shows that patient access to medical records can lead to better health behaviors.

The study, published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that patients who were able to review their doctor’s clinical notes were more compliant with treatment, and more involved in their own health care.

Dr. Tom Delbanco of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, one of three sites where the study was conducted, said “I think that once [open notes] become part of standard practice and we learn how to use these well, it will enrich the doctor’s experience and the patient’s experience.”

Doctors have long held that reviewing the detailed medical notes might make patients anxious or confused.  However, in the study, called the OpenNotes Trial, patients who reviewed their electronic medical records via secure Internet access were rarely more anxious or confused as a result.  Access to the records also did not lead to longer office visits with only 5% of participating doctors saying they were spending more time with these patients in the office and 8% reporting that they were responding to patient questions outside of office visits.

More than half of the patients given access to their detailed medical records reviewed the clinical notes, with many sharing the information with family members and others.  Nearly all of the participating patients wanted to have continued access to their medical records following the study.

While many physicians have concerns about opening their charts to patients, those who participated in the study said that the OpenNotes project contributed to improved communication with their patients.  Bedside manner via internet – welcome to the future!

12. October 2012 by David Weiss
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