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Patients Benefit From Access to Physician Notes

Last Updated: October 01, 2012.

Patients report clinically relevant benefits and minimal concerns, while doctors do not experience negative consequences, from allowing patient access to visit notes, according to a study published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Patients report clinically relevant benefits and minimal concerns, while doctors do not experience negative consequences, from allowing patient access to visit notes, according to a study published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Tom Delbanco, M.D., from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues examined the effect on doctors and patients of facilitating patient access to visit notes. Participants included 105 primary care physicians and 13,564 patients from three primary care practices.

The researchers found that 11,797 patients opened at least one note. Of the 5,391 patients who opened at least one note and completed a post-intervention survey, 77 to 87 percent reported that open notes helped them feel more in control of their care. Of those taking medications, 60 to 78 percent reported increased adherence to medications. Privacy concerns were reported by 26 to 36 percent of participants. Doctors found that there was no change in the volume of electronic messages from patients, and few doctors reported longer visits or more time outside of visits addressing patients' concerns. About 60 percent of patients believed they should be able to add comments to doctors' notes. About one-third of patients wanted the authority to approve the notes' contents but nearly all doctors disagreed. Ninety-nine percent of patients wanted the open notes to continue and none of the doctors chose to stop.

"Patients accessed visit notes frequently, a large majority reported clinically relevant benefits and minimal concerns, and virtually all patients wanted the practice to continue," the authors write. "With doctors experiencing no more than a modest effect on their work lives, open notes seem worthy of widespread adoption."

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