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Patients Want Access To Physician Notes Despite Privacy Concerns

Posted on October 4, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

While privacy concerns remain, patients’ desire to access their medical records online seems to outweigh those concerns, according to a study reported in iHealthBeat.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, included 3,874 primary care patients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger Health System and Harborview Medical Center. Each of these institutions implemented OpenNotes, a portal which allows patients to read the notes written by their doctors following office visits, e-mail correspondence and phone calls. The patients were able to view the notes via the portals where other parts of their medical records are stored.

Researchers interviewed patients at baseline, prior to their using the OpenNotes portal. They were interviewed again after a one year period during which they were able to use the OpenNotes portal to review the notes doctors made during their visits.

Privacy remained a concern throughout the study period, iHealthBeat noted. At the study’s outset, about 33 percent of OpenNotes project participants reported having concerns about privacy;  meanwhile, almost 37 percent said they were concerned about privacy after the one year period of using the portal.

After using the portal  for a year, 15.5 percent of patients said they were more concerned about privacy, while 12.7 percent said they were less concerned about privacy.

That being said, study participants were still very enthusiastic about having access to the notes. In fact, at the study’s end, 99 percent of participants said they wanted continued access physician notes, despite their initial privacy concerns.

In April of last year, when I first wrote about this project, I  predicted that patients would become very attached to the level of intimacy OpenNotes would offer with their providers.  It seems that this has come to pass. If 99 percent of patients want to continue with the project despite having privacy concerns, that’s a ringing endorsement of the concept. Now, I’m curious as to whether other institutions will get on board.

Will “Open Notes” Change EMR Design?

Posted on April 26, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Today I read about a very interesting project focused on improving relationships between physicians and patients. I suspect the concept would make some doctors’ skin crawl — anytime you’re asked to give up over control of information, it smarts a bit — but I suspect we’re seeing a glimpse of the future.

The  OpenNotes project, which is being conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger Health System and Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, lets patients review the notes, e-mails and phone calls primary care doctors make after their medical appointment. Patients access the information via a secure Web interface.

In July 2010, researchers published baseline findings prior to the OpenNotes kickoff in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Since then, the project seems to have attracted a lot of interest, with more than 100 doctors and 20,000 patients participating.   It’s also gotten a lot of support from foundations;  the group has received grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Pioneer portfolio, the Drane Family Fund, the Koplow Family Foundation and the Katz Family Foundation.

Wondering how participants feel about this level of medical intimacy? Check out the OpenNotes site, where you’ll find a video  offering impressions from patients and doctors on how they feel about their level of communication.  As you’ll see, OpenNotes volunteer patients seem to enjoy having a closer relationship with their doctor, and more importantly, feel empowered to comment or even contradict the doctor if they see something that seems to be out of line.

“You can look at the comments that Bob writes down and sometimes you agree with him and sometimes you don’t,” says one patient. “Sometimes we clash on it, but then we work things out.” (Note the familiar title “Bob” the patient uses to address his doctor, which I doubt he would have otherwise.) Sounds like a better working relationship than I have with most of my providers!

Of course, there’s always questions as to whether approaches like these would work outside the confines of a grant-funded, academically-minded group of institutions and doctors.  Certainly that’s hard to tell. But it seems clear that at minimum, something worthwhile is going on here that might force vendors to think about patient facing data more deeply.  I’m impressed by what I see here and hope that we continue to learn from these efforts.