KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Can Giving Patients Access To Medical Charts Improve Care?

A new study will examine whether patients benefit from having electronic access to their medical chart, including the notes made by their doctor.

"[T]hree large health centers - Beth Israel, the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and Seattle's Harborview Medical Center - are enrolling 115 doctors and up to 25,000 patients in the OpenNotes study," The Associated Press reports. "For a year, participants will get an e-mail after each office visit saying their doctor's note is available through a secure online portal. Researchers will track if patients read it and find errors, and how they use it. Doctors' habits are being tracked, too - if they censor themselves or write more patient-friendly notes… Indeed, in Monday's Annals of Internal Medicine, [Dr. Tom] Delbanco and [Jan] Walker describe doctors' fears of time lost editing their words or calming patients upset at reading of, say, an inconsequential heartbeat irregularity - while patients say they want the information but wonder if they'll misinterpret something." Federal law allows patients to obtain a copy of their medical charts, but the process can take weeks and be difficult. The study's funder is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Neergaard, 7/19). "At the end of the 12-month study, investigators will ask both the doctors and patients if the notes should once again be closed, or if this type of transparency is here to stay. Researchers said they think that if the pilot goes well, OpenNotes could become the standard in years to come" (7/19).

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