Can Sharing Clinical Notes Increase Patient Engagement and Retention?

Excerpted from an article by Ed Miseta, Chief Editor, Clinical Leader


A recent article on HealthLeaders Media notes between 40 and 80 percent of what a patient hears from their physician is immediately forgotten, and about half of what they do remember, they get wrong. In a clinical trial, the result can be significant patient non-compliance.

One study, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, undertook a 12-month study of OpenNotes. In it, the notes of 105 doctors were shared with more than 19,000 patients in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The study found when patients had access to the doctor’s notes, they felt more in control of their healthcare, better understood their medical issues, and reported they were more likely to take their medicines as prescribed. Almost all of the patients supported the idea of seeing the notes, and no physicians opted to stop sharing the notes once the study came to an end.

More importantly, the study concluded this simple idea has the potential to transform the way patients engage with their healthcare, and will enable them to become true partners in discussions and decisions regarding their care. In an industry where there is a huge push to treat patients as partners, the results should be hailed as welcome news.

A New Study Confirms Results

A new study now seems to verify those earlier results. Doctor John Maif, professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, also felt there was a communication problem that existed in healthcare, which resulted in miscommunication and forgetfulness. He believes the result of this miscommunication is low patient engagement, poorly managed conditions, and unfilled prescription medications. In a clinical trial, that would also likely equate to poor patient data and retention.

Maif is the lead author of a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The study, published on February 11, 2016, looked at whether email reminders had an effect on patients accessing physician notes in the OpenNotes program. His study found that sharing physician notes with patients, and email reminders to them that the notes are available, can help to keep them engaged and be more likely to take their medications.