In 2011, Harborview Medical Center and 278 of its patients took part in a yearlong study to test a program providing online access to medical records—doctor notes, lab results, medications, and more. The program, called OpenNotes, allows patients to better engage in their own care. “We had an elderly patient whose family purchased a computer and taught her to use it just so she could participate. It helped her gain control of what she really wanted,” says Dr. Joann Elmore, Harborview Medical Center physician and OpenNotes principal investigator. Harborview was one of three national sites involved in the study. Benefits include easier sharing of information among patients, families, and caretakers, and individuals with ongoing conditions such as HIV can access frequently updated treatment details. The response was so positive that Harborview continued offering online access to trial participants after the test period ended last fall. “In the future, the majority of people said they would think about choosing a health care system or doctor based on whether an OpenNotes system was available,” says Elmore.
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