What Patients Value About Reading Visit Notes: A Qualitative Inquiry of Patient Experiences With Their Health Information

J Med Internet Res. 2017 Jul 14;19(7):e237. doi: 10.2196/jmir.7212.


Background: Patients are increasingly asking for their health data. Yet, little is known about what motivates patients to engage with the electronic health record (EHR). Furthermore, quality-focused mechanisms for patients to comment about their records are lacking.

Objective: We aimed to learn more about patient experiences with reading and providing feedback on their visit notes.

Methods: We developed a patient feedback tool linked to OpenNotes as part of a pilot quality improvement initiative focused on patient engagement. Patients who had appointments with members of 2 primary care teams piloting the program between August 2014-2015 were eligible to participate. We asked patients what they liked about reading notes and about using a feedback tool and analyzed all patient reports submitted during the pilot period. Two researchers coded the qualitative responses (κ=.74).

Results: Patients and care partners submitted 260 reports. Among these, 98.5% (256/260) of reports indicated that the reporting tool was valuable, and 68.8% (179/260) highlighted what patients liked about reading notes and the OpenNotes patient reporting tool process. We identified 4 themes describing what patients value about note content: confirm and remember next steps, quicker access and results, positive emotions, and sharing information with care partners; and 4 themes about both patients' use of notes and the feedback tool: accuracy and correcting mistakes, partnership and engagement, bidirectional communication and enhanced education, and importance of feedback.

Conclusions: Patients and care partners who read notes and submitted feedback reported greater engagement and the desire to help clinicians improve note accuracy. Aspects of what patients like about using both notes as well as a feedback tool highlight personal, relational, and safety benefits. Future efforts to engage patients through the EHR may be guided by what patients value, offering opportunities to strengthen care partnerships between patients and clinicians.

Keywords: electronic health records; patient participation; patient portals; quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Access to Records / ethics*
  • Patient Access to Records / standards
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality Improvement / ethics*