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Putting Doctors and Patients on the Same Page

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Five years ago, Harvard researchers convinced 100 primary care physicians to try something novel — share the notes they made during and after office visits with their patients. Patients already had the legal right to access their records, but it involved a lot of request forms and tedious faxing, and few knew about or took advantage of their rights. Moreover, doctors were reluctant to impart their own notes, even as secure email messaging had made sharing lab test results, medication records, and other parts of the medical record easier.

The Harvard trial was therefore groundbreaking, and its main finding — that patients will actually read and learn from their doctors’ notes — catalyzed a national movement known as OpenNotes. Today, some 6 million Americans have easy access to their medical records, including clinical notes, through secure web portals. So what has this open relationship meant for doctors and their patients? 

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