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Doctor having conversation with his patient and holding xray inIn today’s medical world, doctors don’t always have the time that patients need. Technology and insurance have changed the medical landscape over the past few decades, some things for the better, and some, for the worse. To improve communication, a new trend within doctor-patient relationships has emerged. A program called Open Notes allows medical professionals to share medical notes with clients. Researchers track subsequent responses and actions from patients, studying positive and negative health-related outcomes. With nearly five million participating patients since 2010, this trend has revealed several pros and cons.


Praise for the Open Notes program has by far outweighed any criticism. Many doctors claim it has encouraged patient involvement and helped eliminate breakdowns in communication.

  • Having access to your medical notes allows you to better understand your diagnosis and possible treatments. Many people welcome the chance to review meetings with physicians. Patients may need time to process information conveyed during an exam. With Open Notes, patients may be better able to understand their medical situation through optional re-reading of notes. Added knowledge and a better understanding may provide increased opportunity for incorporating treatment and beneficial health habits.
  • Patients now have a written record with which to further investigate their diagnosis. With documentation, the study finds there is a better level of follow through. People take more responsibility for understanding what is happening within their bodies. They are more likely to investigate how to improve or maintain their health.
  • Patients also participate in recognizing errors or spotting a doctor’s misinterpretation. This may prevent medication errors and misdiagnoses and could lead to better, faster diagnosis by ruling out symptoms and options. Take the following scenario for example: You have a sensation of pressure in your calf, with occasional swelling. Your physician reports that you have “consistent pain and swelling in your knee.” By informing the doctor of the difference between what you are experiencing and his or her interpretation, you may have ensured an accurate diagnosis.
  • By providing more focused care and faster, more accurate diagnoses, medical costs are lowered. This occurs for both the individual patient and, ultimately, the entire healthcare system.


Despite the positive responses to note sharing, physicians do relay some concerns as well.

  • Physicians’ exam notes include medical terminology that may be misinterpreted. A patient may then refuse his or her doctor’s prescribed treatment or choose to self-treat, based on an incorrect self-diagnosis.
  • There is concern that doctors may edit their medical notes, knowing that they will be read by a “layperson.” Certain medical facts may be omitted to avoid upsetting patients who may misinterpret them.

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  • As the founder of Steven J. Malman and Associates, P.C., Attorney Steven Malman has 21 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, premises liability, construction and workers’ compensation cases. Mr. Malman is one of Chicago’s leading authorities on personal injury law and has taken a special interest in defending the elderly from neglect and abuse. He has personally handled over 10,000 cases successfully, and collected hundreds of millions dollars for his clients.

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