Opening Residents’ Notes to Patients: A Qualitative Study of Resident and Faculty Physician Attitudes on Open Notes Implementation in Graduate Medical Education

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OpenNotes is a growing national initiative inviting patients to read clinician progress notes (open notes) through a secure electronic portal. The goals of this study were to (1) identify resident and faculty preceptor attitudes about sharing notes with patients, and (2) assess specific educational needs, policy recommendations, and approaches to facilitate open notes implementation.


This was a qualitative study using focus groups with residents and faculty physicians who supervise residents, representing primary care, general surgery, surgical and procedural specialties, and nonprocedural specialties, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Geisinger Health System in spring 2013. Data were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim, then coded and organized into themes.


Thirty-six clinicians (24 [66.7%] residents and 12 [33.3%] faculty physicians) participated. Four main themes emerged: (1) implications of full transparency, (2) note audiences and ideology, (3) trust between patients and doctors, and (4) time pressures. Residents and faculty discussed how open notes might yield more engaged patients and better notes but were concerned about the time needed to edit notes and respond to patient inquiries. Residents were uncertain how much detail they should share with patients and were concerned about the potential to harm the patient–doctor relationship. Residents and faculty offered several recommendations for open notes implementation.


Overall, participants were ambivalent about resident participation in open notes. Residents and faculty identified clinical and educational benefits to open notes but were concerned about potential effects on the patient–doctor relationship, requirements for oversight, and increased workload and burnout.

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