Boston hospital provides patient access to physician notes to improve care

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has announced plans to allow between 25,000 and 30,000 patients to read physician notes in their electronic medical records for one year as part of an “open notes” project to assess whether access to physician notes may improve care.

According to the Boston Globe, "whether patients should be allowed to see their doctors’ notes online” has been “one of the most intense areas of debate” in the national push to computerize medical records; usually, physicians and hospitals do not make the notes readily available because of concerns that patients may misunderstand medical jargon, worry unnecessarily about tests, or take offense at observations.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, however, is about to begin a project called “open notes’’ in which about 100 doctors at the hospital and two other sites will allow 25,000 to 35,000 patients to read their physicians’ notes for a year as part of their online medical record.

Researchers hope to learn whether the notes prove more useful than objectionable. They hypothesize that access to doctors’ notes will improve care partly because patients will become more knowledgeable about their treatment and about their doctors’ instructions.

(SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing,, June 22, 2009; Boston Globe,, accessed July 6, 2009)