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The Need for OpenNotes

Here’s what a few of our patients had to say about the prospect of the new OpenNotes initiative.

Earlier this year, we implemented OpenNotes at our six health care delivery sites for families and children. The pilot program allows patients to virtually access their medical records. This gives them newfound agency in their essential health care decisions.

To learn more about the initiative and why itโ€™s so important, click here.

Why is OpenNotes So Important?

Recently, our team reached out to our consumers to gauge whether or not they believed having access to their medical records and provider notes would support their health care progress.

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A questionnaire was designed to gather information on how these individuals currently access their health records. In addition, it examined what barriers to accessing technology they encountered (if any), how well they understood their medical plan and, of course, whether or not they thought Open Notes would benefit them.

The Questionnaire

Specifically, the questionnaire asked consumers to evaluate:

  1. How they currently access their health records
  2. What their technological capabilities are
  3. How they currently adhere to medical plans
  4. Their general feelings on OpenNotes

Acquiring this information has many benefits. Honest feedback helps us make improvements to our systems, resulting in a better experience for the consumer. In addition, involving patients gives them increased agency in their health care decisions, cultivating a more transparent relationship between provider and patient.

Current Access to Health Records

The majority of participants (75%) reported that they access their health information by calling, emailing or visiting the health center in person. Twenty-five percent said that they used the EMR (Electronic Medical Records) online portal to access their information.

Those that utilized the portal expressed satisfaction with it. However, participants suggested that providers utilize more calls and electronic reminders to provide follow-up information. In addition, participants voiced their desire for printed visit summaries and the ability to change/schedule appointment online.

Technological Capabilities

Just over half of the participants cited that they had difficulty connecting their devices to reliable Wi-Fi. This barrier required them to use their data plans, which are often limited.

Just under half reported no barriers to accessing appropriate technology.

OpenNotes also presents the possibility of accessing information via kiosks at the health centers. Therefore, by passing any personal barriers to technology an individual may experience.

When asked about how comfortable theyโ€™d be using a kiosk, 81% expressed that theyโ€™d be โ€œvery comfortable.โ€

Current Adherence to Medical Plan

Every single participant responded that they trust their providers with both the services they provide and the private information they handle.

One participant said: โ€œYes, I trust my provider, thatโ€™s why I stick with them. They explain things well and explain exactly what I need to know.โ€

โ€œYes, I trust I get the correct medical information,โ€ said another participant. โ€œMy provider goes above and beyond, which makes me trust them.โ€

All participants reported that they take their medications as prescribed and that they either consult the bottle or their provider with any questions. However, 75% of the participants expressed that it would be helpful to receive detailed notes after visits.

OpenNotes Discussion

Every participant expressed that OpenNotes would give them better access to their health information as well as more control over their health.

โ€œYes, because I would understand what is happening with me,โ€ said one participant.

Another commented, โ€œI would feel more in control because if I donโ€™t understand something, I could go back and re-read it again.โ€

However, some did voice their concern with privacy and confidentiality. While other noted concerns with notes written in English and possibly misunderstanding medical jargon.

Chief among their needs for an ideal experience were:

  1. The ability to make and reschedule appointments through the portal.
  2. The ability to message their providers directly through the portal or OpenNotes itself.

How OpenNotes can be Successful

All participants are generally comfortable with how they access their health information. Especially in regard to follow-ups.

However, every single participant expressed enthusiasm at the idea of accessing visit notes after each visit. They all conveyed a desire to achieve a better understanding of their medical plans.

As previously stated though, several consumers communicated their concern with technological barriers. So, whether it be Wi-Fi capabilities or the device itself, technological capabilities must be addressed in order for OpenNotes to be successful.

OpenNotes has the potential to be a revelatory tool for our clients. And the need for it is clear. This questionnaire not only helps us by providing essential feedback. It also illustrates the importance of giving the people we serve a platform to voice their concerns and enthusiasm.