Patients see value in having access to EHR visit notes

When patients get access to their electronic health records, including notes that clinicians write after medical visits, they believe it improves overall physician-patient communication and fosters greater transparency and ensures the safety of their own care.

That’s among the findings of a new study conducted by Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center regarding patient experiences with reading and providing feedback on their EHR visit notes.

“Patients are increasingly asking for their health information,” says Macda Gerard, a research assistant for OpenNotes at BIDMC. “It also comes at a time when we’re learning that patient and family engagement is really important and has many benefits. But there hasn’t been a formal way for patients to truly give feedback on what they find in their records, including errors.”

Using a patient feedback tool linked to visit notes in the EHR, researchers at BIDMC asked 260 patients and caregivers over a one-year period what they liked about having electronic access to their health information.

Results of the study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, show that more than 98 percent of participants indicated that the reporting tool was valuable, and nearly 70 percent provided additional information on what they liked about reading their notes and the feedback process.

“When it came to the content of their notes specifically, overall we found that patients really appreciated the ability to confirm and remember next steps as well as the opportunity to gain quicker access to their results,” adds Gerard. “Many also valued the opportunity to share the information with their care partners. And, a lot of them actually also reported that reading the notes helped them feel heard by their providers and also helped them gain confidence in their providers.”

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BIDMC is part of a growing nationwide movement among providers—called OpenNotes—designed to enhance overall safety and quality of care by ensuring the accuracy of clinician note-taking, while reducing medical errors and improving medication adherence.

According to Gerard, many patients in the study “welcomed the opportunity to correct possible mistakes” and wanted to help providers get the notes right while expressing a heightened sense of partnership and engagement with clinicians. In addition, she said many patients indicated that they “liked the simple act of just being given the opportunity to provide feedback.”

“Patients and care partners who read notes and submitted feedback reported greater engagement and the desire to help clinicians improve note accuracy,” concludes the study. “Aspects of what patients like about using both notes as well as a feedback tool highlight personal, relational, and safety benefits. Future efforts to engage patients through the EHR may be guided by what patients value, offering opportunities to strengthen care partnerships between patients and clinicians.”

The research was supported by CRICO’s Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions, which applies a data-driven approach to claims management and patient safety. CRICO is the medical malpractice insurer and patient safety supporter of the Harvard hospitals.

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