While most (58%) of the participating physicians expected that open notes would result in greater angst among patients, far fewer patients (only 16%) concurred. As many as 92% of the nonparticipating physicians anticipated more worry among patients.
Delbanco and Walker hope someday it will be routine for primary care physicians to share with patients their notes about doctor visits in a process, they write, that could "transform the patient-clinician relationship." It's certainly not routine now.
While hospitals and healthcare systems with electronic medical records are increasingly allowing patients to view laboratory results, medication lists, and other parts of the medical record, patients rarely have easy access to notes written about them by clinicians, according to the researchers.
Walker and Delbanco believe that's a mistake. If more patients were able to see and review doctors' notes, they could use the information to make decisions about their health, and manage their illnesses better, the researchers said in an interview with HealthLeaders Media.
"We're saying there's this 'black box' of the doctor's notes that patients really aren't privileged to read, and we think that's ridiculous," says Delbanco, a primary care physician who created the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Beth Israel Deaconess, a unit he led for 30 years until 2002.
As they see it, sharing notes with patients is a simple step that could go a long way toward improving healthcare. In instances where physicians have shared written notes with patients, dialogue has ensued about certain illnesses and conditions, with the potential of improved care as a result. In addition, patients have occasionally pointed out information that physicians wrote in notes that doctors may have later neglected, with the impact of potentially reducing medical errors, Delbanco says.