Five years ago, researchers from Harvard Medical School partnered with Geisinger Health System (Pennsylvania) and Harborview Medical Center (Seattle) to launch a pilot program called Open Notes. Open Notes is a unique initiative that encourages health care providers to share their office notes with their patients. The researchers tracked the results of the patients having access to these notes, finding that having access to the notes makes patients more engaged in their own health care. Although there were already healthcare providers that voluntarily offered access to their notes to patients, the launch of Open Notes has successfully increased the interest in this idea.
Currently, researchers involved with Open Notes estimate that around 5 million people see physicians that share their notes as part of this same initiative. Doctors across 20 institutions around the country, including major academic medical centers and health systems, are active participants in Open Notes. Even providers not directly involve with the study have taken part in this growing trend, which is beneficial for both doctors and patients.
Open Notes, according to advocates, is shifting the doctor-patient relationship from being less paternalistic and more of a partnership in keeping up with an individual’s health status. Being able to read the notes a doctor is taking about the current status of your health makes the entire situation easier to understand for many patients. A doctor telling a patient that he or she is pre-diabetic is one thing, but reading it from their notes on your own time is entirely different and may serve as a wake up call to many patients who will begin to take better care of their health. By creating these engaged patients, health systems are hoping to improve the overall service they provide while reducing healthcare cost all around for both patients and the entire healthcare system – patients are are active participants in their health are also likely to be healthier in the long run.