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OpenNotes Reaches 10 Million Patients

August 5, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The OpenNotes team announced a significant milestone this week as 10 million patients nationwide have access to their physicians’ notes online.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and 50 health systems in 35 states now share notes online using secure patient portals, according to the OpenNotes team. OpenNotes is a national initiative working to give patients access to the visit notes written by their doctors, nurses, or other clinicians.

“The results of the OpenNotes study involving 105 primary care doctors and 20,000 of their patients were shared in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012. Just four years later, we’re seeing the culture shift toward transparency in the patient and provider relationship really take hold, and we’re beginning to understand the benefits that openness brings to everyone in the health care delivery system,” Cait DesRoches, OpenNotes executive director, general medicine and primary care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), said in a prepared statement.

OpenNotes is actively working with health organizations moving toward implementation in a majority of the remaining 15 states. In the last six months, Duke Health in North Carolina, Rush University Medical Center and Springfield Clinic in Illinois, University of Utah Health Care, Agnesian Healthcare in Wisconsin, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Sutter Medical Foundation and Open Door Community Health Center in California, Sanford Health headquartered in the Dakotas, Samaritan Health Services in Oregon, Providence Health & Services sites in Oregon and Washington, and UCHealth in Colorado have all started sharing notes.

“UCHealth is excited to be the first in the state of Colorado to offer OpenNotes to all patients in our system,” Chen-Tan (C.T.) Lin, M.D., chief medical information officer at the University of Colorado Health, said in a statement. “Open notes are now available across the spectrum of care, from outpatient clinics to hospital discharge summaries, to emergency department notes. We believe that information transparency is crucial; an informed and engaged patient is a healthier patient.”

Among the 10 million patients who can now access their notes online, more than three million are Veterans. One of the first health systems in the country to share notes, the VA expanded patient health record access in 2013, offering VA OpenNotes through their Blue Button tool.

“VA patients tell us that having copies of their visit notes is a powerful communication tool, and provides greater control of their care,” Susan Woods, M.D., director of patient experience in the Connected Care Office.

“We’re thrilled to be making progress,” Tom Delbanco, M.D., co-founder of OpenNotes, general medicine and primary care, BIDMC, and the Koplow–Tullis professor of general medicine and primary care at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement. “Ideally, the notes help tell the story of the patient’s medical life, and offering patients ready access to them is simply the right thing to do. We still have a long way to go, but 10 million is a big step toward making OpenNotes the standard of care for all patients.”

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