The Commonwealth Fund Promotes Patient Health Care Engagement with OurNotes

In an increasingly complex medical environment, it’s essential for doctors to actively involve patients in taking charge of their own care; enter OurNotes, an initiative of the Commonwealth Fund. OurNotes is a new effort that allows online medical records access to patients and encourages them to contribute notes. The practice is expected to increase treatment clarity and reinforce the steps that patients should take to maintain their wellness.

"We know that increasing patient engagement is a critical component of improving health care," said Anne-Marie Audet, MD, Vice President at the Commonwealth Fund. "This research will explore the potential for OurNotes to help improve care among the most medically complex patients—those with multiple chronic health conditions."  

OneNotes is a pilot study that grew out of OpenNotes, a 2012 study that gave patients the ability to see what physicians wrote about them after their clinical visits. More than 100 primary care doctors and 20,000 patients participated. The original study, published October 2 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that patients with access to physician notes were more likely to follow treatment protocols including better adherence to medication doses. The study concluded that “a large majority [of patients] reported clinically relevant benefits and minimal concerns, and virtually all patients wanted the practice to continue. Today, more than five million patients nationwide can access their electronic medical records online.

OneNotes is designed to turn medical record keeping into a two-way street. The Commonwealth Fund grant will support the OneNotes study at five sites: Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania; Harborview Medical Center and Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington; and Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, Missouri along with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Massachusetts which in late January received a $450,000 grant to implement the program.

“We envision the potential capability of OurNotes to range from allowing patients to, for example, add a list of topics or questions they'd like to cover during an upcoming visit, creating efficiency in that visit, to inviting patient to review and sign off on notes after a visit as way to ensure that patients and clinicians are on the same page," said principal investigator Jan Walker, RN, MBA, Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We believe that OurNotes, which will enable patients to contribute to their own medical records, has the potential to further enhance communication and engage patients in managing illness more effectively and efficiently, leading to improved patient safety and quality of care and potentially, to lower health care costs."

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School. It is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.