Delbanco and Walker are continuing to study physicians' attitudes on this subject, with plans to release a follow-up report in six months. For instance, they will explore physician attitudes and how they took notes after questioning patients about specific conditions, such as obesity or cancer.
The researchers also will evaluate how often patients looked at their notes, whether they better understood their physical condition, and whether they shared the information with others. They will also address privacy concerns. Confidentiality may be the hallmark of traditional doctor-patient interaction, but open visit notes put the patient in control of whether the note will remain private, Walker says. "Those are among the questions we will have answers to in a follow-up study," Walker says.
As Walker and Delbanco continue to evaluate open notes, the debate about whether note-sharing between patients and physicians may be just beginning. At the outset, they think it should become a routine part of the framework of medical care.
"I would love this to be a standard of care in five years. Patient engagement is a huge piece of it, and this is a simple intervention that can accomplish a lot," Walker says.