Public Release: 

BIDMC receives Commonwealth Fund grant to develop OurNotes

Innovative initiative to promote patient engagement by allowing patients to contribute to the medical record

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

BOSTON - Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has received a $450,000 grant from The Commonwealth Fund to develop OurNotes, an initiative to promote active patient engagement in health and illness that invites patients to contribute to their own electronic medical records.

"We know that increasing patient engagement is a critical component of improving health care, and we hope to build on BIDMC's well-established work in this area," said Anne-Marie Audet, MD, Vice President at The Commonwealth Fund. "This research will explore the potential for OurNotes to help improve care among the most medically complex patients-those with multiple chronic health conditions."

"This is really building for the future. We envision the potential capability of OurNotes to range from allowing patients to, for example, add a list of topics or questions they'd like to cover during an upcoming visit, creating efficiency in that visit, to inviting patient to review and sign off on notes after a visit as way to ensure that patients and clinicians are on the same page," said principal investigator, Jan Walker, RN, MBA, Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

OurNotes is an extension of OpenNotes, a movement to offer patients ready, online access to their clinicians' visit notes. Increasingly accepted by patients, families, providers and institutions throughout the United States, the number of patients who can read their medical notes online has risen to more than 5 million nationwide. This change in practice follows the encouraging findings of the OpenNotes study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012. Led by investigators at BIDMC, the OpenNotes study involved more than 100 primary care doctors and 20,000 patients in three areas of the country.

"Our research has shown -- and feedback from patients continues to confirm -- that patients benefit from reading their visit notes. For example, patients say they have better recall of the treatment plan, feel more in control of their health care, and report improved adherence to medications," said Walker. "We believe that OurNotes, which will enable patients to contribute to their own medical records, has the potential to further enhance communication and engage patients in managing illness more effectively and efficiently, leading to improved patient safety and quality of care and potentially, to lower health care costs."

The Commonwealth Fund grant will support work at five sites, including original OpenNotes study partners, BIDMC, Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA, and more recent OpenNotes adopters, Group Health Cooperative, also in Seattle and Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, MO.

The multi-center team will work with industry experts, clinicians and patients on a user-centered design process, focusing initially on primary care. "During this phase we'll be asking clinicians questions about what kinds of information they think would be helpful to receive from patients. Likewise, we'll be talking to patients to find out what kinds of information they would like to contribute to their records and their notes," said Walker.

Findings from this initial phase of work will be used to develop prototypes at each site and to conduct pilot testing that, in turn, will lead quickly toward formal clinical trials.

"We envision OurNotes as a therapeutic intervention that will prove effective over time for a wide range of patients, especially those struggling with chronic health concerns," said co-investigator Jonathan Darer, MD MPH, Chief Innovation Officer at Geisinger Health System. "We expect this process to enlighten our understanding of patient and family engagement and its role in reducing healthcare costs, increased shared accountability, improving the health of those with chronic illness and multiple comorbidities and, most importantly, enhancing the overall patient experience of care.



Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

BIDMC is in the community with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and The Jackson Laboratory. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit

About The Commonwealth Fund

The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.

The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy. An international program in health policy is designed to stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialized countries.

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