For Patients and Caregivers, Study Could Open Door to Doctor’s Thoughts


What would happen if you knew what a doctor really thought about your elderly loved one's health? Would it scare you? Prompt you to ask more questions? Would it help you take better care of them?

These are some of the questions the authors of the OpenNotes project research study are attempting to answer.

The OpenNotes Project was designed to determine how sharing doctor's notes with patients would affect the quality of the health care they received. People participating in the study were able to access the notes taken by their primary care physician through a secure online portal.

Before being granted access to their doctor's notes, people were instructed to answer a few questions regarding their attitudes towards the initiative. The results of this preliminary survey were recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to a press release, a whopping 90% of patient survey respondents said that they wanted to be able to read their doctor's notes after a visit. 75% said that having access to this information would incentivize them to take more responsibility for their own health.

Patients who were also caregivers saw additional benefit to the initiative. One woman stated that being able to see the notes her elderly mother's doctors had made would help her take better care of her.

While issues of patient privacy may make it difficult for some caregivers to access the records of their elderly loved ones, the survey results indicated that some people (22%) would be more than willing to share their physician's notes with family and other doctors.

The survey indicated that doctors were conflicted on whether allowing patients to see their notes would be a good thing or not. Many feared that their notes would be misinterpreted or that giving patients access to reports would cause them to bombard already busy physicians with time-wasting questions and concerns.

Researchers are still in the process of analyzing the formal data so there is as yet no way of knowing how the intentions and opinions expressed in the survey actually played out over the year-long OpenNotes project. With official results a few months away, senior study author Tom Delbanco, MD, is optimistic about what the sharing of doctors notes will mean for the future of health care, "I expect that over time everyone will benefit enormously from such transparency."

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