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OpenNotes to Reach 50M New Patients Through Grant Funding

“OpenNotes will make clinicians’ thinking far more transparent, and that holds both complex and exciting implications for patients, for their family members, and for the host of health providers who care for them."

By Sara Heath

Four healthcare organizations have donated $10 million in grants to fund OpenNotes for nearly 50 million patients nationwide, according a recent press release.

The funders—which include Cambria Health Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Peterson Center on Healthcare, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—provide these grants as a part of the national effort to increase physician transparency and patient engagement.

OpenNotes is an initiative to provide patients with a printout of their physician’s notes at the end of their doctor’s appointment, allowing them to see a more complete picture of the care that they received.

There have been many studies behind the effectiveness of OpenNotes, suggesting that by letting patients see how physicians are delivering care, they become more empowered in their health and better understand their health.

“Our research shows increasingly that patients can benefit greatly from reading the notes taken during a medical visit. They tell us they feel more in control of their care and are more likely to follow up on recommendations,” said OpenNotes’ co-founder Jan Walker, RN, MBA. Walker is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “This has enormous implications for improving the quality and costs of care. Moreover, we’re learning that having a second set of eyes on the record may be an important way to improve patient safety.”

Research also shows that using OpenNotes can help increase medication adherence. During one study of the program, researchers found that participants who took their medications during the study engaged with their care better and understood their medications more fully.

“Experience suggests that giving patients access to their clinical notes holds considerable promise for addressing the stubborn challenge of improving medication adherence. More than two-thirds of patients who took medications during the original study reported improving the way they took their medications,” the press release reads. “The investigators showed that patients being treated for high blood pressure who were offered open notes were more likely to fill their prescriptions than those without open notes.”

The goal of the grants is to make OpenNotes more widespread by aiding physicians in adopting the program. By working with an advisory board, the funders will determine which end users to aid in adoption, targeting healthcare systems as well as individual practices and physicians.

OpenNotes executives hope that these grants will help provide better care and increase patient engagement for hard-to-reach populations.

“OpenNotes will make clinicians’ thinking far more transparent, and that holds both complex and exciting implications for patients, for their family members, and for the host of health providers who care for them. This is particularly true for vulnerable populations, and patients with a large burden of chronic illness, including mental illness,” said OpenNotes’ co-founder Tom Delbanco, MD. Delbanco is also a primary care doctor at BIDMC, and the Koplow–Tullis Professor of General Medicine and Primary Care at HMS. “Opening the doctor’s black box breaks down traditional barriers and provides a foundation for all kinds of exciting innovations in health care, changes that in my view will benefit the vast majority of patients and their clinicians.”

The funders of the project also expressed excitement to participate in the new initiative, including one of OpenNotes’ original funders, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has proudly funded OpenNotes since 2010, when the first pilot was conducted,” said RWJF’s represenative Susan Mende. “Engaged patients who have strong relationships with their clinicians are critical to building a nationwide Culture of Health. We are pleased to continue to share this innovative approach.”

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