Should physicians share their notes with patients?
There was a time when doctors were protective of the information they entered into a patient’s record. However, with the advent of electronic health records (EHR) and the desire by patients to have true transparency in healthcare, it’s much more common for physicians to share all notes, lab results and X-ray images to allow patients to be more involved in their own medical care.
In 2010, a study of 105 primary care physicians from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger and Harborview Medical Center, had doctors sharing their notes with approximately 20,000 patients for one year. By the conclusion of what was called the OpenNotes study, all of the physicians involved continued sharing notes.
That sparked a huge interest in OpenNotes, and ever since, there has been an increasing number of prominent health systems and doctors who have opened up access to their notes to their nearly 20 million patients.
The benefits of sharing notes
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the creators of the OpenNotes study, when physicians share notes with their patients, it allows for a more open dialogue between doctor and patient, which can build trust and lead to more motivated and adherent patients. Additionally, it may enable patients to feel empowered and be more willing to discuss topics that may be difficult for them.
Donald Rebhun, MD, corporate medical director of HealthCare Partners, Mission Hills, California, supports the industry’s movement toward allowing patients to review the notes in their medical records.
“Open discussion and sharing of notes promotes a shared-decision model that differs from the traditional model of the physician evaluating the patient and telling them what to do,” he says. “Today, rather than physicians deciding what is important ‘for’ their patient, it is now better to decide ‘with’ their patient. This leads to better understanding, improved adherence and better outcomes.”
James Legan, MD, a primary care physician with Northwest Physicians, Great Falls, Montana, says not only should notes be shared with patients, but he thinks they should be put on the big screen during the patient visit.