fb-pixel Skip to main content

What is the doctor scribbling down in the chart? Many patients have probably wished they could sneak a peak into their medical records.

Being able to do so is like a proverbial shot in the arm, said physician Tom Delbanco and Jan Walker, founders of OpenNotes at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Patients feel more in control of their care and understand their health issues better when they are able to read the notes doctors write after their visits,” said Walker.

Delbanco, 73, is a leader in the creation of patient-centered care and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Walker, 61, is a nurse researcher and longtime advocate for breaking down barriers between doctors and patients.

Together they launched OpenNotes as a large-scale experiment giving more than 13,000 patients access to notes about their own care at Beth Israel and three other medical centers. The study found access to medical notes increased patients’ understanding of their medical problems and improved compliance with medication regimens. The results were so overwhelming Beth Israel plans to adopt OpenNotes hospitalwide.


One patient, Candice Wolk of Weston, was ordered by her physician to see a dermatologist for a suspicious-looking mole, but forgot to follow up. When she checked OpenNotes, it was like instant recall — and the mark turned out to be a premalignant condition. “As patients, we are our own best advocates, and even more so, when allowed access to visit records,” said Wolk.