It is, perhaps, the most infamous doctor’s visit in TV history: The “Seinfeld” episode where Elaine sneaks a peek at her doctor’s notes and, after finding herself described as “difficult,” cooks up a complex plan to steal the document.
Well, new research supports the underlying idea: Patients who spent a year with access to their doctor’s notes say their quality of care improved.
The doctors were using software called OpenNotes, which gave patients access to all those notes scribbled in appointments. Doctors at three medical systems tested out the new system with just more than 13,000 patients. After a year, researchers had patients and doctors fill out surveys about how the new system affected their health. Results are available in an Annals of Internal Medicine study.
Overall, the ratings were positive when it came to the quality of care, with patients appearing to be significantly more enthusiastic about the program than their doctors.
Patients across the board reported that they felt more prepared for their doctor’s appointments and had better adhered to their prescriptions. As one patient put it, “Having it written down, it’s almost like there’s another person telling you to take your meds.”
Doctors didn’t totally agree. About a third agreed the new system was changing how well patients managed their care. But just as Elaine became anxious after seeing a doctor’s note describing her as “difficult,” some doctors reported patients becoming more worried after seeing their charts.