Do You Want to See What Doctors Are Writing About You?
Researchers at Boston’s Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center recently conducted an interesting study: they gave patients full, unfettered online access to the medical notes that doctors were writing about them.
The platform, called OpenNotes, let patients log in and see all information recorded about them to date, including “miscellaneous” comments about general appearance and more global concerns. As it happens, patients loved the access, with 99% of them saying they would “like to continue.”
Is this the future? I have written before about the benefits of improved communication between doctor and patient. Bridging the gap between the spoken and written word could go a long way toward helping this process along, even if it may at times lead to awkward or uncomfortable exchanges. After all, many patients are cowed into silence during examinations, or else they become so flustered that they only remember half of what was said. Here’s the Atlantic Monthly:
But in an ideal scenario, programs like OpenNotes can be the first step in building a more collaborative relationship between doctors and patients. Delbanco is already looking ahead to what can come next: Let’s say, again, that you’ve gained weight since your last physical, and you see — right there on your chart — that this hasn’t escaped your doctor’s notice. What if you could write back — right there on your chart — that you had been stressed at work, or were going through personal difficulties? Just as there are many things you can learn about yourself from reading your doctor’s notes, there are plenty of things that you know that your doctor does not. “The basic goal of care, as far as I’m concerned,” said Delbanco, “is to get these two unique bodies of knowledge as close as possible.”
There are any number of issues to be ironed out with this program, including limiting access to individuals who might be unable to understand it due to mental illness. But as a general concept, this feels right on trend with our growing awareness that patients make better decisions when they have all the information.