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Nov 19, 2021What is OpenNotes and How Does it Help Patients and Providers?

The OpenNotes initiative encourages providers to share their clinical notes with patients. Open clinical notes improve patient-provider communication and engage patients in their care. OpenNotes can also reduce errors and help patients adhere to treatment plans. Studies show that the OpenNotes initiative benefits both patients and providers through improved communication and shared decision-making. Here is why OpenNotes are important for patients and providers.

What Is OpenNotes?

OpenNotes is a non-profit initiative that encourages health care transparency and communication. The organization teaches patients how to access and read clinical notes. It also encourages providers to share their notes with patients. By giving patients more access to their data, OpenNotes strives to improve patient engagement and adherence to treatment plans.

The 21st Century Cures Act’s Information Blocking Rule went into effect on April 5, 2021. This rule prevents providers and practices from blocking access to electronic health information. The rule was designed to increase patient access to their health data, including medical record notes. Under the rule, most types of clinical notes now must be shared with patients when requested, unless the standard for an exemption is met. This includes the following types of notes:

  • Consultation notes
  • Discharge summary notes
  • History and physical notes
  • Imaging, lab, and pathology report narratives
  • Procedure notes
  • Progress notes

The Information Blocking Rule prohibits providers and practices from blocking access to, use of, and exchange of these types of notes. In effect, open notes are now a regulatory requirement.

How Does the OpenNotes Initiative Help Patients?

Access to clinical notes can help patients manage their care between office visits. Patients may not be able to recall the details of their treatment and medication plans after visits. With open notes, patients can refer back to their visit details at any time. Sharing notes can increase adherence to treatment and medication plans by reducing confusion and miscommunication.

The OpenNotes initiative directly helps patients get access to their notes and learn to read them. Armed with this information, patients feel more engaged in their care. Open clinical notes help patients and providers stay on the same page. It also empowers patients to use their office visit time for critical questions and issues.

How Does the OpenNotes Initiative Help Providers?

Open notes help providers and practices too. Giving patients access to their notes can reduce electronic health record (EHR) errors. In studies, about 10 percent of patients found errors when reviewing their medical records. Open notes can help your practice ensure that patient data is accurate and up-to-date.

With the proliferation of quality measures, it’s increasingly important to help your patients adhere to treatment and medication plans between office visits. Open notes can improve adherence by helping patients understand their treatment plans and prescriptions. Notes can also serve as a reference so patients can keep track of medications and treatment plans. By engaging patients in their care, sharing notes can motivate your patients to adhere to their providers’ recommendations between visits.

Sharing notes can also support improved communication and higher patient satisfaction. By giving patients access to clinical notes, your practice can support shared decision-making, giving patients a stake in their care. Better communication also improves patient satisfaction. This reduces patient turnover and can increase your practices’ quality scores.

However many physicians are apprehensive about giving patients unmitigated access to their entire patient record. This concept is going to take some time to come to a level of comfort for both the patients and the providers, but if done well can prove incredibly powerful for both.

What Does the Research Say about OpenNotes?

Research on the OpenNotes initiative found that participating patients were more likely to take blood pressure medications as prescribed, more comfortable with their medications, and more likely to find medication errors. Research has also shown that the OpenNotes initiative supports more use of shared decision-making and empowers informal caregivers to assist patients with medications and appointments.

Research has also found that patients benefit from reading open notes. One study found that the benefits from note reading were higher among less educated, nonwhite, and Hispanic patients, among others, making notes an important tool for engaging with vulnerable patients. Overall, the vast majority of patients reported understanding their notes (96 percent). More than 60 percent reported that the notes helped them feel in control of their care and remember their plan of care.

How TempDev Can Help with OpenNotes

TempDev’s team of NextGen experts can help your practice share data with patients more effectively. If your practice is interested in the OpenNotes initiative, TempDev can help you get your NextGen system ready to share meaningful clinical notes with your patients. TempDev’s analysts can also help you configure the NextGen Patient Portal (formerly MedFusion) to encourage data sharing. We can also help your practice comply with the new Information Blocking Rule.  

Call us at 888.TEMP.DEV or contact us here to get started sharing open notes with your patients.

Related articles:

4 Things to Know about the Information Blocking RuleRead article
Is Information Blocking Happening with Your Health IT Systems?Read article
The Cures Act Fact SheetRead article
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