We’ve all been there before. You’re sitting on the exam table at the doctor’s office, and your doctor asks you question after question while pounding away on a laptop.

Have you ever wondered what they're writing?

We understand that our doctors are busy, and sometimes they may get ahead of themselves and not realize that we aren’t following what they're trying to say. With so much confusion surrounding our doctor visits, there has to be better way of getting the most from our appointments.

What exactly goes into our patient notes, and do we need to know what they say? And what would happen if you were invited to read your doctor’s notes after the appointment?

The research

Harvard researchers sought to answer that question and observe whether the sharing of doctor notes had any impact on individuals’ health outcomes. Nearly 200 physicians and approximately 14,000 people took part in a year-long study to see what would happen if participants were given access to their doctor’s notes (OpenNotes) through a secure electronic link.

What they found:
- More than 80 percent of the participants reported they felt more in control of their healthcare.
- Nearly 69 percent of participants reported increased medication adherence.
- Approximately 99 percent of the study participants wanted to continue the open note practice.
- Nearly 85 percent of participants said physician use of the practice would be an important factor in choosing a primary care physician.

“Patients accessed visit notes frequently, a large majority reported clinically relevant benefits and minimal concerns, and virtually all patients wanted the practice to continue. With doctors experiencing no more than a modest effect on their work lives, open notes seem worthy of widespread adoption,” the study says.

What is OpenNotes?

OpenNotes is a national initiative that is working to give individuals access to their doctor’s visit notes. They believe that, “opening up visit notes to patients may make care more efficient, improve communication, and most importantly may help patients become more actively involved with their health and healthcare.”

If you feel that your visit notes could make a positive change in your health outcome, talk to your doctor. Visit notes don’t have to be electronic; your doctor may be able to scan and email handwritten notes or copy them to send home with you after each visit.

To learn more about your healthcare team:

Guide: Talking to Your Doctor about Diabetes
Talk to Your Doctor: What to Do when Your Doctor Doesn't Follow Up as Promised
Dangers of Advertising: Why Your Doctor Needs to be Part of Your Diabetes Self-Management Plan