Study: Patients in OpenNotes Study Sites Benefit from Access to their Records

Patients who have online access to their electronic health records (EHRs) through a portal are continuing to benefit from reading their records—particularly patients in underserved populations, according to a new study.

An expansion of the popular OpenNotes program, which allowed patients at participating pilot sites to have access to the primary care provider’s office visit notes, extended that access to allow patients to read their records of encounters at medical, ambulatory, and surgical specialty practices. The aim of this study was to examine the ongoing experiences and perceptions of patients who read ambulatory visit notes written by a broad range of doctors, nurses, and other clinicians, investigators wrote in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. In their study, patients at health systems in Boston, Seattle, and rural Pennsylvania had at least one visit note available in a recent 12-month period. The researchers’ goal was to measure patient-reported behaviors and perceptions of the benefits of reading their notes.

Invitations to view their records were sent to 136,815 patients. Of those, researchers received responses from 22 percent of the patients.

“This study is the first to include large numbers of patients reading notes across medical, surgical and mental health specialties,” Jan Walker, a health services researcher in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told Health Data Management. “These patients may have been reading their notes for several years; the participating institutions implemented OpenNotes across their ambulatory practices by 2014.”

According to the study, patients rated note reading as very important for helping take care of their health, feeling in control of their care, and helpful in allowing them to remember their care plan.

“About a third reported being encouraged by their clinicians to read notes and a third told their clinicians they had read them. Less educated, nonwhite, older, and Hispanic patients, and individuals who usually did not speak English at home, were those most likely to report major benefits from note reading,” the researchers wrote.

Mary Butler is associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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