Patients who have online access to their physician's notes are more likely to understand their health issues, adhere to their medication regimens and feel a sense of control over their care, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Wall Street Journal reports (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 10/1).
Details of the Study
The study -- which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- included 105 physicians and more than 13,500 patients at:
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston;
- Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.; and
- Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Before the study began, researchers surveyed the doctors and patients about their views on physician note-sharing. They then surveyed the study participants again in fall 2011, after the patients had 12 to 19 months of online access to their physician's notes (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 10/1).
Findings About Patients
The study found that 90% of patients said they read their physician's notes online and 99% said they wanted continued access to such notes (Gold, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/2). Of the patients who did not read their physician's notes online, the most common reason cited was forgetting that the notes were available online.
Researchers also found that:
- 89% of patients at Harborview, 87% at Geisinger and 86% at Beth Israel said that access to their physician's notes would be either a somewhat or very important factor in choosing a future physician or health plan;
- Between 60% and 78% of the patients at the three hospitals said that online access to their physician's notes helped improve their medication adherence (Modern Healthcare, 10/1); and
- 20% to 45% of patients said they shared their physician's notes with other people, such as family members and friends.
According to the study authors, patients who had online access to their physician's notes reported "an increased sense of control, greater understanding of their medical issues, improved recall of their plans for care and better preparation for future visits" ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/2).
Findings About Physicians
While about one-third of patients said they thought they should have the ability to approve the information in their physician's notes, about three out of five physicians said they thought they should be able to add their own comments without patient approval (Wall Street Journal, 10/1).
In addition, the study found that:
- 91% of physicians at Geisinger, 88% at Harborview and 85% at Beth Israel said that making their notes available to patients "is a good idea" (Modern Healthcare, 10/1); and
- As many as 36% of physicians reported adjusting the language of their notes to avoid upsetting patients when addressing issues such as mental health problems and obesity.
Researchers acknowledged that the study had certain limitations. For example, all physicians participating in the study had electronic health record systems, but not all U.S. physicians have adopted the technology.
They also noted that the response rates to the patient survey were lower than they would have preferred (Wall Street Journal, 10/1).