Sharing clinical notes with patients led to improved medication adherence and recall of treatment recommendations, according to a study in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

The initiative, called OpenNotes, encourages clinicians to share patient notes via a secure online portal. Over 100 primary care physicians at three hospitals invited 20,000 patients to read their visit notes on the portal; in the five years since the launch of the study, the number of patients who have had access to their visit notes has grown to over five million.

Patients who had access to their clinical notes reported that the ability to read the notes after the appointment helped them remember to take their medications and recall discussions and instructions from the office visits. Others stated that reading the notes reminded them to schedule follow-up appointments. For clinicians, the initiatives helped to catch prescribing errors but some expressed concerns that patients would report such errors or that these errors would impact patient trust in the clinician.

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“We understand that these are real concerns that need to be addressed with education, innovation, and further research,” said lead author Sigall Bell, MD, from the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “But, we think solutions can be reached. Data suggest that transparent communication can enhance trust, and that activated patients have better experiences of care. The benefits of partnering with patients in this way are likely well worth the effort.”

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