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OpenNotes Launch Gives 500K Patients Access to Health Data

Allina Health will use OpenNotes to expand patient access to health data and improve patient engagement levels.

Allina Health has launched OpenNotes which expands patient access to health data.

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Allina Health has officially launched OpenNotes, allowing its nearly 500,000 patients access to health data and clinician notes.

The health system serves individuals in Minnesota and Wisconsin and is the first in the area to adopt the OpenNotes philosophy, which calls for providers to make clinician notes freely accessible for patients.

Patients will be able to find their clinician notes under the Health Records Home tab, according to the health system. Allina Health will still preserve all of its patient engagement functions including secure messaging with the care team, eVisits, and lab result postings.

Clinician notes will pertain to visits to one of Allina Health’s 62 clinics, but not hospitals.

Although Allina Health has offered patients access to their health data via the patient portal for some time, adding clinician notes will enhance that information, according to Allina Health Senior Vice President Tim Sielaff, MD.

“Patients are familiar with going online to access portions of their electronic health record for general medical information, such as scheduling an appointment, viewing lab results or view medical history,” Sielaff said in a statement. “But doctor’s notes are the thread that ties together many pieces of information in the health record.”

Clinician notes add some context that will help patients better understand their health data.

This is a far cry from the concerns that some industry professionals have had about OpenNotes. Some clinicians are apprehensive because they believe clinician notes are too complex for patients to fully understand. Others are concerned that patients will have an adverse reaction to potentially negative clinician comments.

However, as is the case in many healthcare practices, the proof was in the pudding for Allina Health. The health system embraced OpenNotes due to its successes across the country, according to Allina Health’s press release.

In the 2012 pilot study for OpenNotes, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger Health System, and Harborview Medical Center found that OpenNotes sparked stronger patient activation in care.

Pilot patients reported having better visit information recall, feeling more in control of their care, better patient-provider communication, better patient education, stronger medication management, prevention of medical errors, and more ease sharing health information with family caregivers.

OpenNotes has recently produced more research confirming its positive impact on patient care. A study published at the end of last year showed that patients who can access clinician notes and add their own annotations can raise patient safety rates.

The OpenNotes research team introduced the annotation tool to 41 clinicians who had already adopted the philosophy. In total, 6,225 patients used the annotation tool during the test period between August 2014 and August 2015.

About 8 percent of patient participants ended up using the annotation tool. Of those patients, 23 percent reported safety concerns pertaining mostly to medication or medical history errors.

Sixty-four percent of patient feedback were categorized as confirmed or possible medical errors. Fifty-seven percent of the reports eventually resulted in a medical record change.

OpenNotes has also been recognized by big industry stakeholders for its work in improving patient data access, a key tenet to patient engagement strategies.

At this year’s Health Datapalooza, AcademyHealth presented OpenNotes with the Health Data Liberator Award. The award recognized OpenNotes’ success in empowering patients and strengthening patient-provider relationships.

“Consumers’ ability to review and confirm their own health information can have a transformational effect on their care and outcomes,” said Lisa Simpson, President and CEO of AcademyHealth, which granted the award.

“The work Tom [Delbanco, MD], Jan [Walker, RN, MBA], and their colleagues have done in increasing patient access to that information — while also building the evidence base for why doctors should be sharing it — is revolutionizing the patient-doctor relationship,” Simpson concluded, recognizing OpenNotes’ co-founders.

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