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Reading Clinician Visit Notes May Benefit Patients

A study of patients who read their clinicians’ visit notes reports positive effects on patients’ use of prescription medications.

The study of approximately 20,000 adult patients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), the University of Washington (UW) Medicine, and Geisinger Health System was conducted online between June and October 2017. The three health systems have been sharing visit notes written by primary care doctors, medical and surgical specialists, and other clinicians for several years.

“Sharing clinical notes with patients is a relatively low-cost, low-touch intervention,” said study lead Catherine DesRoches, DrPH, executive director of OpenNotes and also of the Division of General Medicine at BIDMC. OpenNotes ( is an international movement that urges doctors, nurses, therapists, and others to invite patients to read the notes they write to describe a visit.

The study also showed that patients speaking primary languages other than English and those with lower levels of formal education were more likely to report benefits.

“This kind of transparent communication presents a big change in long-standing practice, and it’s not easy,” said study co-author and OpenNotes co-founder Tom Delbanco, MD, MACP. “Doctors contemplating it for the first time are nervous…. But once they start, we know of few doctors who decide to stop, and patients overwhelmingly love it. The promise it holds for medication adherence is enormous….”