‘Revolution afoot’ to get doc notes
April 12, 2015 in Medical Technology
OpenNotes advocates are predicting a groundswell of public support for giving patients access to physician notes as part of their medical profile. Viewing physician notes will help patients understand their diagnoses better, clear up confusion about physician instructions and catch potential errors in their profiles, three speakers told HIMSS15 attendees Sunday morning.
Susan Woods, MD, a general internist with the Veterans Health Administration, says there is “a revolution afoot” with regard to the public demand to get access to “the rich source of patient information, which is physician notes.” This new movement actually goes back 40 years to when the New England Journal of Medicine published an article endorsing patient access to their medical records.
“It took four decades to happen, but we’re finally getting there,” Woods said.
Because it has had a portal in place since 2000, the VA is a pioneer in patient engagement. With the Blue Button portal, agency officials conducted extensive research into what users actually want.
“It boiled down to common sense stuff – they don’t want their time wasted, they want help in managing their treatments and they want to see their health records,” Woods said.
Blue Button started in 2010 and has since been expanded “to include the kitchen sink,” she said. And while the patient still doesn’t have access to the entire record, she said it is a doorway to their information.
“I got news for you – we’ve been offering patients access to their information since 2000 and the sky did not fall,” Woods said. “In fact, patients have been valuable in providing an extra set of eyes to the process.”
Jan Walker, RN, co-director of the OpenNotes initiative, which promotes transparency of physician notes, says the goal is to let patients see the actual notes that physicians and other clinicians write about them following encounters and says “the movement is starting to catch on.”
The OpenNotes demonstration project goes back to 2012, when 108 physicians volunteered to share their notes with their patient base of 20,000 across the country. The purpose, Walker said, was to evaluate the process and determine whether patients would become more engaged in their care and if sharing notes was “the straw to break the doctors’ backs.”
Organizers planned for the project to last one year and let participants determine whether they wanted to continue after it ended.
The results were overwhelmingly positive, Walker said, with most physicians reporting virtually no impact on their workflow and at the end of 12 months, continued to share their notes.