Pilot Project Gives Patients Electronic Access to Therapists’ Notes

May 19, 2014 in News

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is piloting a project that gives behavioral health patients electronic access to their therapy notes, the Washington Post reports.

Project Details

The project launched on March 1 and is based on the national Open Notes initiative, which the hospital has been participating in for all outpatient services — except behavioral health — for more than a year.

The pilot makes Beth Israel the first private hospital system to offer electronic access to therapy notes written by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

Stephen O’Neill, social-work manager for psychiatry and primary care at Beth Israel, said 24 of the hospital’s 29 social workers are participating in the new pilot program. The social workers selected 360 patients who would get access to their notes.

O’Neill said patients must have a computer and Internet connection in order to participate in the pilot. The notes are encrypted, and patients can access them by logging into a secure portal.

Pam Peck, who oversees the pilot project in the hospital’s psychiatry department, said all 15 clinicians in the department are participating in the program.

Implications

The project has spurred a debate among mental health professionals about whether patients should be given electronic access to their therapy notes.

Supporters say that increased transparency could reduce the stigma and isolation of mental illness while helping patients’ self-image.

Tom Delbanco, founding chief of the division of general medicine and primary care at Beth Israel, said, “I feel patients have as equal a right to see what the doctor writes when their minds hurt as when their knees hurt.”

However, other providers have raised concerns about patients misinterpreting the notes and feeling unfairly judged by their provider. Some providers also noted that the open access could prompt some medical professionals to censor their notes.

In an email opting out of the program, one social worker said, “I believe that adding the dynamic of computerized notes in the middle of this relationship will lessen its effectiveness” (Sun, Washington Post, 5/18).

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