Getting Started

Clinicians can provide patients with access to visit notes electronically, or they can rely on low-tech means by providing print copies of the notes at the end of a visit or later by mail. Check out the OpenNotes Toolkit for tips and tools to get started sharing notes.

Simple ways to get started:

Patients: Ask your doctor for copies of your visit notes. You are entitled to them.

Doctors and other health care professionals: Start sharing your notes. Begin by printing or mailing copies to your patients.

Hospital and health care executives: Ask your clinicians if they are interested in sharing notes. Talk to your electronic health record vendor about how to make visit notes available to patients, in a format that helps doctors, nurses and other clinicians communicate easily and effectively.

Caregivers: Encourage your family member to ask his or her doctor for a copy of the notes. If you are attending an appointment with someone you care for, ask the doctor for the notes together. Remember, you need your family member’s permission to view his or her medical records.

Making the switch

The OpenNotes* team doesn’t believe you need a specific technology to share notes. Electronic health records used with a patient portal make it easier to share notes, but any typed or hand written notes can be easily shared by printing and mailing to patients.  Some doctors  have already taken this step.

Sharing notes may seem unusual for clinicians and patients, at first.  It may help to think of it as a “new medicine,” one whose potential adverse “side effects” can be outweighed by the overall benefits for everyone.

*OpenNotes is not a software program