Clinicians and patients participating in a pilot implementation of the OpenNotes note-sharing program for mental health treatment at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center say the program has yielded tangible benefits.

As of Dec. 1, 2014, hospital executives said approximately 85,000 BIDMC patients use the hospital's PatientSite portal to manage their care, and about 1,000 of those had access to their mental health notes since the pilot began in March.

“We can certainly say at this point, the angst which most clinicians feared by sharing their notes is not materializing,” said Stephen O’Neill, social work manager for psychiatry and primary care. “It has been strikingly quiet in this regard, with scattered exceptions. The vast majority of our patients are reporting that the notes are helpful and often clarifying. OpenNotes is not an end, it is one more means in giving our patients tools to assist them. Most patients report that it helps them to feel more in charge of their life and in a better ‘partnership’ with their clinical team.”

“I go back to my OpenNotes to remember what we talked about and to remember what we’ll be talking about next time,” said patient Stacey Whiteman, who is being treated for multiple sclerosis.

According to behavioral neurology social worker Lissa Kapust, the access to the OpenNotes helped Whiteman stay current on her treatment plan. “For Stacey, it allows her to do some of the work agreed upon between sessions," Kapust said. "The notes are terrific reminders.”

“For many patients, the opportunity to read a treatment note can help improve accuracy and reduce stigma,” said BIDMC psychiatrist Michael Kahn, M.D. “And that may encourage patients to address their mental health issues more actively.”

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