OpenNotes initiative improves transparency for future doctors

Medical Industry News.

In 2010, a research project was launched that would revolutionize the way patients and doctors interacted. Named OpenNotes, the initiative endeavored to allow patients to easily view the notes from the visit to their doctor; including a summary of their conversation, a synopsis of symptoms and all the doctor’s thoughts and findings.

Until this project, although patients had access to their medical records, it was time consuming and expensive. In the 2010 experiment, 100 primary care physicians agreed to voluntarily open their notes to their patients. The project included approximately 20,000 patients from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center and the Geisinger Health System, covering facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The results were quite compelling – over 90% of participating patients said that opening physician’s notes was a good idea.

The doctors who participated had slightly less enthusiasm, although their response was still positive. According to the same report published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, nearly 70% of physicians agreed that OpenNotes was a good program, but more than 50% of them shared that the transparency would cause them more worry in their careers.

Still, with such conclusive results, the ball has begun rolling. With the expansion over the last 5 years, more than 5 million patients have enjoyed easy access to their own records; a number which is expected to increase by tenfold over the next 3 years, energized by several grants which total $10 million, The nonprofit donors are Cambrai Health Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Peterson Center on Healthcare.

Dr. Tom Delbanco is a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess, a professor of medicine at Harvard and the co-founder of OpenNotes. His stated goal is to ensure that transparent medical records are the standard across the industry; requiring providers, patient groups and electronic records vendors to adopt the initiative. At the moment, institutions generally do not mandate participation from their medical professionals, and as new standards always experience reluctance in some way, patients may still have a bit of a wait ahead of them to see OpenNotes implemented across the board.

For the short term, locum tenens professionals may find standards different as they travel from facility to facility; but all signs indicate that with the overwhelming response from patients and doctors, OpenNotes is destined to become the standard of communication between patient and medical professional.