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Missouri University Health Care

MU Health Care opens notes, patient engagement through secure online portal

Bob Caldwell likes what he can see through University of Missouri Health Care’s patient portal, MUHealthe. 

Radiology reports, lab results — and now, his physician’s notes.

“For me, it’s very valuable in ascertaining where my health is, and what I need to do in future discussion with my doctor,” said Caldwell, 66, who is retired from the U.S. Army Medical Department. “When it comes to medical stuff, I would just as soon not be surprised if I can help it.”

MU Health Care, a 550-bed health system based in Columbia, Mo., is one of a handful of organizations in the nation that participate in OpenNotes, an initiative that works to give patients secure access to notes written by doctors, nurses or other clinicians. 

Proponents say allowing patients to see these notes helps them remember what their doctor said in the exam room and become more engaged in their health and care. Indeed, a national study of physician notes available through patient portals found that:

  • More than 60 percent of patients reported doing better with taking medications as prescribed.
  • More than 77 percent of patients reported that having access to their doctors’ notes helped them feel more in control of their care

Patients may not think to ask questions during their appointments, said Dr. Tom Selva, MD, chief medical information officer. By giving them access to completed physician notes, patients can revisit recommended steps and better remember treatment plans.

“Patients should be a part of the health care team,” said Dr. Selva, who is also a professor of clinical child health at the MU School of Medicine. “By making clinic notes available to patients through our secure, online portal, patients can play a more active and informed role in their health care.”

Dustin Viet, a senior clinical strategist at the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation, first brought the concept to Dr. Selva and a MU Health Care committee in the summer of 2014. Patients have long been able to see notes from their provider, Viet said, they just had to fill out the necessary paperwork. Most, however, aren’t willing to make that extra effort. 

Dr. Selva, in turn, brought the idea to the medical staff. The organization “turned on” OpenNotes in January and made notes available to patients going back to Dec. 1, 2014. Since then, MU Health Care patients have viewed or downloaded their doctor’s notes more than 1,100 times.

Through OpenNotes and other services, Caldwell said he has convinced his mother, mother-in-law and son all to become MU Health Care patients. “I am far more connected to my doctor, one on one, than I have ever felt (before)," he said.

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