The 3 Week Diet

Study Suggest Sharing Doctor's Notes with Patients Could Improve Behavior

Ever wonder about what the doctor writes in your patient folder while taking notes during an exam? What would happen if both patients and doctors had convenient access to these notes? Would knowing a doctor’s honest opinion about their health change the way a patient heeded their advice? These are just some of the questions asked in a recent study released in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Beginning in the summer of 2010, the OpenNotes project began inviting patients to read the notes written by their physicians following office visits. Through the use of a secure website, patients could view the notes and other portions of their medical record. As part of their agreement with researchers, primary care providers (PCPs) could elect to not share their notes with patients who they believed would be caused undue distress by the information.

Doctors NotesPatients involved in the study were very eager to review the information found in their medical folders, with over 90 percent of the study’s participants believing the information would be helpful. Reaction from PCPs, however, was less enthusiastic, as only 69 percent of doctors participating in the study thought open sharing of notes a good idea, while only 16 percent of doctors not participating in the study favored the idea.

Proponents of the project believe the benefits of doctor/patient transparency greatly outweigh any negative effects. Patients instructed to undergo blood work or a radiology procedure could gain a valuable insight into why the test was ordered. Proponents also argue that seeing a doctor’s opinions in print could greatly impact the way a patient views his or her health. Hearing from a doctor that you need to lose weight might carry more gravitas if you read in the notes that your considered obese or at a high risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Opponents to the idea argue that patients could decide to omit telling their doctor vital information out of fear that the information could become public knowledge. Thirty-five percent of participants in the study had concerns about privacy, and 22 percent anticipated allowing others to review their notes.

While researchers have yet to release any definitive results about the benefits of the OpenNotes project, early feedback from patients and PCPs has been favorable. Over 74 percent of doctors in the study believed that open note sharing would help improve patient communication and education, and 84 percent believed OpenNotes would increase patient questions between visits. However, 50 percent of the doctors involved believed the program would cause greater patient concern.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer living in Portland, who greatly enjoys reading the blog of Dr. da Costa, a dentist in Beaverton, Oregon.
By: Timothy Lemke

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Category: Health Care

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