OpenNotes, a national initiative that gives patients electronic access to the clinical notes their physicians write after visits, is getting a major shot in the arm in terms of funding.

Four foundations have committed $10 million over three years to the healthcare transparency movement to grow the number of participants from more than 5 million Americans currently to 50 million patients nationwide.

Cambia Health Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Peterson Center on Healthcare, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are funding the effort to dramatically scale up the OpenNotes project on a national level. Supporters argue that the sharing of visit notes with patients can improve overall safety and quality of care by ensuring the accuracy of clinician note-taking, while reducing medical errors and improving medication adherence.

With new funding from the philanthropies, OpenNotes will target healthcare organizations and consumer advocacy groups across the country, as well as clinicians and consumers, to significantly increase adoption of this change in practice designed to not only improve physician-patient communication but also lead to improvements in healthcare delivery and health outcomes.

Also See: OpenNotes Strives for Better Physician-Patient Communication, Transparency

Since the OpenNotes movement began in 2010 with a study at three hospitals—Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger Health System in Danville, Penn., and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle—it has spread to major medical systems nationwide and within geographic regions, such as Oregon and southwest Washington. Now, the project is looking to ramp up significantly to other areas of the country including southern states—where OpenNotes to date has not made significant inroads.

Kelly Lawman, spokesperson for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is not fazed by the ambitious goal of reaching 50 million patients nationwide over three years. “We went from 20,000 to 5 million patients in three years so that’s quite remarkable as well,” says Lawman, who in part credits the widespread adoption of electronic health records with enabling patient access to physician visit notes.

According to Lawman, EHR vendors like Cerner and Epic are “on board” embracing the OpenNotes movement. “With the new roll-out of Epic the default is to have an open note on,” she reveals. “Health Systems who use Epic will have to turn it off if they don’t want to use it. But, we want to get to those folks who use Epic and say ‘there’s good reason to have it on and this is how it can help patients with your practice.’”

In addition, Lawman says a portion of the $10 million in new funding from the foundations will be used to expand research studying the benefits of sharing clinician notes with patients. She noted a recent study at Geisinger Health that found patients treated for high blood pressure who were given access to visit notes were more likely to fill their prescriptions than those not given access.

Continuing to demonstrate the benefits to patients, clinicians, and health systems, will go a long way toward expanding OpenNotes across the country, Lawman argues. “That’s been the most effective way that we’ve been able to spread this movement so far, which is to show that there are real clinical benefits,” she concludes. “One of the biggest things that we need to do is to ramp up boots on the ground at institutions.”

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