JOIN HINZ   |   Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Report Abuse   |   Sign In Features

GPs and patients benefit from Open Notes

Wednesday, 5 June 2019  
Share |

Return to home page


Picture: Broadcaster Toni Street uses a patient portal to manage her autoimmune disease. editor Rebecca McBeth


Around two thirds of all general practices now offer patients access to an online portal where they can book appointments or order repeat prescriptions, but most are choosing not to turn on functionality that allows patients to read their medical notes. editor Rebecca McBeth reports.


Part of the Coromandel Family Health Centre’s pitch to patients to register for a patient portal is that they will be able to read their medical notes online.


Bryan MacLeod is GP owner of the rural practice and has been offering patients access to their notes for about five years. About 30 per cent of his 2,000 patients have registered for a portal.


“We encourage patients to embrace the portal, and part of it is telling people they have access to their notes,” he tells


When switching on OpenNotes, MacLeod chose to make available historical notes as well as those going forward and says “we haven’t found a problem with that”.


“It’s their [the patients] notes legally and I felt quite comfortable showing the full notes to them,” he says.


“There’s clear evidence that people forget what they are told, so this way they can allow family members to view the notes or remind themselves what’s happened without calling the surgery.”


Empowering patients


In New Zealand, about 17 per cent of the population is registered with a patient portal and the Ministry of Health is keen for practices to start offering patients access to their notes via a portal.


Chief medical officer Andrew Simpson says it empowers people to be more involved in their healthcare by helping them understand their condition better and remind them of their care plan and medications.


This view is backed up by international research. A recent US study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research on patients' experience with Open Notes found 74 per cent of respondents rated note reading as very important for helping them achieve health benefits including improving recall and understanding of their plans for care.

They also reported an increased sense of control and felt better prepared for visits.


Interestingly, "less educated, nonwhite, older, and Hispanic patients, and individuals who usually did not speak English at home, were those most likely to report major benefits from note reading". 


A patient perspective


Broadcaster Toni Street has used a patient portal for the past three years to help her manage an autoimmune disease that requires a lot of repeat prescriptions which she can now order online.


“I have had some good and some not so good medical experiences in the past and it’s good to be able to make reference to the notes to make sure you and the doctor are on the same page,” she tells


After being hospitalised with a bad allergic reaction to an antibiotic, Street was checking her lab results on a daily basis via the portal, meaning she did not have to ring the surgery and “bug the medical staff” every day.


She has also a different portal page for each of her three children.


“I feel I’m across my health a lot more by having the portal. It encourages me to keep up with my blood tests and repeat scripts far more than if I had to physically go in and do it,” Street says.


Patient access


GP owner of Hauraki Plains Health Centre Anthony Smit explains that patients can always request to see their notes, whether on paper or electronically.


“What a portal does it make it much easier to do that,” he says.


His practice’s five GPs decided to offer their patients access to their prospective medical notes via the patient portal three years ago. The practice has 4,000 patients and only offers the portal to those aged 16 and over. Around 30 per cent have signed up.


Smit says the change has not resulted in extra work or a change in the way he writes patient notes as the potential for patients to read them has always been in the back of his mind.


He says the ability to make certain consultations confidential in the practice management system is helpful when dealing with a particularly sensitive issue as it means they will be invisible on the portal.


“It’s desirable for patients to be more engaged with their healthcare so for patients who want to be, this is good.”


Read more features:

Clinical Informatics Leadership network: Nursing director takes lead on EMR project

Is e-therapy the answer to our youth mental health issues?

Return to home page

HiNZ, PO Box 300125, Albany, Auckland 0752, New Zealand.

Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal