Northwest OpenNotes Consortium: EHR data should belong to patients

Enabling patients to view the notes physicians write about them puts them more in control of their own care, improves adherence and makes care more effective at lower costs, according to HIMSS16 Homer Chin, MD.
By Jack McCarthy
03:43 PM

OpenNotes is emerging as one of the most promising applications in the national movement toward more effectively engaging patients with a range of technologies including EHRs, mobile software, telehealth tools. And it is proving especially useful in the data liberation revolution. 

“Medical care is very expensive and the information in medical records should belong to the patients,” said Homer Chin, MD, the physician champion for the Northwest OpenNotes Consortium. “This opens the record up for them and gives them access to their own information. So it’s really about greater transparency of the healthcare system.”

The Northwest OpenNotes Consortium is a group working to implement Open Notes across all health systems in Oregon and the Portland Metro region.

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Initial studies of OpenNotes usage have shown that patients felt more engaged in their care and that they were more likely to take medicine as prescribed, Chin said. Seventy-five percent reported taking better care of themselves, better understanding of their medical conditions, and were better prepared for visits. They felt more in control of their care and said that availability of OpenNotes would affect their future choice of providers.

“They felt closer to their providers and more engaged with their medical care with the ability to see these notes,” Chin said. 

Another potential benefit of OpenNotes is its promise to make medical care more efficient and less expensive.

“Our gut sense is it probably will but that remains to be seen because we don’t have the hard data,” Chin said. “If people are on the same page, they won’t be reordering tests, won’t be redoing things. The patient will be more engaged and will understand what’s going on to a greater extent. But data hasn’t been gathered yet.”

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Early concerns about OpenNotes from physicians about it taking up more time for doctors and patients were allayed with use of the technology.

“In our experience, when organizations go live with OpenNotes the predominant thing we hear from physicians is it was a non-event,” Chin said. “When the functionality was implemented, hardly anything was heard from the patients and doctors. In general, after implementing OpenNotes, physicians turned out to be very supportive and found it to be very helpful.” 

Chin’s session, "OpenNotes and the Northwest OpenNotes Consortium," is slated for Tuesday March 1, 2016 from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Sands Expo Convention Center room Lando 4201.

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This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the HIMSS16 conference. Follow our live blog for real-time updates, and visit Destination HIMSS16 for a full rundown of our reporting from the show. For a selection of some of the best social media posts of the show, visit our Trending at #HIMSS16 hub.