Online Access to Physicians’ Visit Notes Increases Medication Adherence

Mixed race woman researching medication on tablet computer
Researchers analyzed patients' perceptions of how reading physicians' notes online influences factors associated with medication adherence.

Using online portals to review physicians’ visit notes help some patients adhere better and sustain proper medication usage, according to study results published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed survey results to assess the relationship between patients’ perceptions about reading physicians’ visit notes online and their adherence to medication usage as prescribed by the physician. Survey invitations were sent to patients from 3 health systems that used the OpenNotes online portal. These patients must have logged into the system ≥1 time in the previous year and had ≥1 physician’s visit note available for reference.

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Of the 136,815 patients who were invited to participate in the study, 22% completed the survey. A total of 19,411 patients were prescribed medication in the past year, many of whom reported that reading the physician’s visit notes helped to explain the purpose of the medication, describe how to properly manage the medication, and resolve any questions that needed to be answered. Patients who were not English speakers and patients with high school or lower education levels found the physician’s visit notes especially beneficial. Nearly 8 of 10 patients reported referencing their online medication list at least once, with 18% noting errors and 85% wanting the ability to correct any inaccuracies they found.

Limitations of this study include a predominantly white and highly educated study population, all information self-reported, and participants already being open to using the OpenNotes system.

The researchers concluded, “Reading visit notes may be important for sustained improvements in the use of medications over time in ambulatory care.”


DesRoches CM, Bell SK, Dong Z, et al. Patients managing medications and reading their visit notes: a survey of OpenNotes participants [published online May 28, 2019]. Ann Intern Med. doi:10.7326/M18-3197

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag