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What happens when doctors share their notes with patients?

Written by Diane Archer

If you’re like most of us, you’ve never seen the notes your doctors take during a visit. You’ve likely never thought much about them. So, it’s hard to imagine what happens when doctors share their notes. It turns out to be a good idea.

A recent study of 105 doctors with 19,000 patients receiving primary care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, reveals that information is power for patients in the health care arena. “OpenNotes,” an initiative in which doctors open their notes to patients, allows patients to partner with doctors in conversations about treatment options. Patients who see their doctors’ notes have a better sense of their health issues, and they report better medication compliance.

Results from another “OpenNotes” study, letting patients see their doctors’ notes, also show it can help improve patient “satisfaction, trust and safety.” The majority of patients who read their doctors’ notes felt the same about their doctors after reading them, and almost four in ten, 37 percent, felt better about their doctors. No doctors who shared their notes reported ordering more tests or more referrals. And a slim majority said they believed their patients were more satisfied with their care and trusted them more.

While it’s still not customary for doctors to share their notes with their patients, it is a growing trend. Major funding is now in place for 50 million more Americans to access OpenNotes. We’ve come a long way since this Seinfeld episode in which Elaine struggles without success to see her doctor’s notes. It’s worth checking out this short clip below. And, if you’re wondering whether it’s time to find a new doctor, here are four questions to ask yourself; there are several reasons you need a good primary care doctor.



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