Wisconsin Collaborative for Quality Healthcare

2017 News

Wisconsin patients to gain easy access to clinicians’ notes
State collaboration spurs adoption of the OpenNotes initiative

April 27, 2017

The Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ) is pleased to announce that one million more Wisconsin patients will soon have ready access to the notes their providers write in their medical records. This work represents the local implementation of OpenNotes, a national movement advocating for enhanced communication between patients and providers through shared clinicians’ notes and fully transparent medical records.

“There are a number of Wisconsin health systems that have already launched OpenNotes, Agnesian Healthcare, Ascension|Columbia St. Mary’s, Allina Health Prescott Clinic, Essentia Health, Fort HealthCare as well as Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare and Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire,” said Judy Nowicki, Quality Improvement Specialist, WCHQ. “As we work to expand OpenNotes to a million more patients, a unique coalition formed by WCHQ will facilitate knowledge and experience sharing among provider organizations as we work collaboratively to support the promotion and implementation of OpenNotes in our state.”

Chris Queram, CEO WCHQ notes, “WCHQ's support and advocacy on behalf of OpenNotes is consistent with our commitment to transparency and engaging patients and families in becoming active in managing their personal health and well-being.”

Clinicians began sharing notes with patients at Ascension|Columbia St. Mary’s in November 2013. Patient, Jon Peik says, “My provider notes are legible and more reliable than my own notes.” Patient Gary Topp is happy that in addition to his primary care notes, he can now see notes from specialists and his certified diabetes educator. “OpenNotes helps me manage my diabetes better. I only see the diabetes educator every six months, so between visits, I go back to the notes to remember what we talked about and what I should be doing to take better care of myself.”

WCHQ is happy to announce several health systems are moving forward with OpenNotes in 2017-2018: Gundersen Health System, Mercyhealth, ProHealth Care, SSM-Dean, and ThedaCare.

“The strong support shown by WCHQ member organizations is consistent with Wisconsin's reputation for being at the forefront of leading innovations designed to improve health and health care” says Queram. This work is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through a grant that focuses its efforts on supporting ideas and innovations that engage consumers and providers to enhance quality, advance access and promote best practices to help people achieve healthy lives.

Results of a one-year OpenNotes study involving 105 primary care doctors and 20,000 of their patients at three sites – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania and Harborview Medical Center, a safety net hospital in Seattle – were strikingly positive In the findings published in 2012 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Patients reported feeling more in control of their care, having greater understanding of their medical conditions, and being more likely to take their medications as prescribed. And at the end of a year, 99 percent of patients asked for the practice to continue, while none of the doctors chose to withdraw.

“Wisconsin hospitals and health systems that are early adopters of OpenNotes are helping patients become more involved in their care,” said Cheryl DeMars, president and CEO of The Alliance, an employer-owned cooperative that works to control health care costs, improve quality and engage individuals in their health. “The promise of OpenNotes is that patients who know more will make better decisions about their care and prevent medical errors. One early study suggests that OpenNotes could have the potential to decrease costs, with patients who read their notes doing a better job of managing their medical regimen and taking medication as prescribed. That’s the kind of change that’s required to help patients play a role in transforming health care.”

Today, more than 13 million U.S. patients have access to their notes. While federal law (HIPAA) mandates a patient's right to access their medical records, including clinician notes, obtaining copies of paper records can be time consuming and in some cases, involve costs for the patient. Electronic records provide free, easy access with the click of a button.

“Wisconsin organizations are national leaders in improving the way information is shared with patients. For example, the OpenNotes pilot at Gundersen Health System was the first to realize that patients were having difficulties finding their notes online. Other organizations confirmed the problem. Epic, the medical record vendor, based in Madison, worked with health organizations and OpenNotes to identify the underlying issue and implement near- and long-term solutions,” said John Santa, MD, Director of Dissemination, OpenNotes. “Another example of innovation is at Ascension |Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, where physicians identify notes that could be better and give feedback and suggestions for improvement.”

About OpenNotes
OpenNotes is a national movement that invites patients, families and clinicians to come together and improve communication through shared clinicians’ notes and fully transparent medical records. The movement is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Cambia Health Foundation. Learn more at www.opennotes.org.

About WCHQ
Founded in 2003, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ) is a voluntary, non-profit consortium of 38 organizations committed to using the public reporting of comparative measures of performance to catalyze improvements in the quality and affordability of healthcare in our state. To view our reports, or to find out more about WCHQ, please visit our website at www.wchq.org

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