How to write an Open Note for patients

Worried about how patients might be offended by physician progress notes? Use this reference tool.



Having been asked a number of times: what is the best way to participate in open notes and sharing physician progress notes with patients? Attached is our one-page PDF guide. Feel free to use and share. Please do include attribution when you share.

In short:

  1. Don’t Panic! Despite physician fears, patients are not looking for a completely rewritten layperson-friendly note. Many patients find it useful just to have access and be able to show that note to their next healthcare provider. You DON’T have to change a thing.
  2. The handful of “gotcha” topics in physician progress notes are few, and not difficult to write in a way that is respectful and still accurate. For example, use “shortness of breath” instead of “SOB”; “BMI>30” or “overweight per medical criteria” instead of “morbidly obese”; and “patient is non-adherent” instead of “patient refuses”.
  3. It gets easier with practice.
  4. I love the quote from Cassandra Cook. To paraphrase: If we write things that might offend patients, consider if such writing affects our own attitudes and behavior.

Furthermore, the website has a great toolkit for organizations looking to make the leap:

CMIO’s take? Lets push open notes until it is the default standard for Electronic Health Records and Personal Health Records everywhere. Is your organization on board with open notes? Let me know.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

2 thoughts on “How to write an Open Note for patients”

  1. Incredible, since we did our original studies on Open Notes, even before the were called Open Notes (we called the project SPPARO, you can google it from 2003), we had dreamed to make this the default standard across the country, and look, here we are in 2020 doing just that. This is a huge win for patients everywhere. The INFO BLOCKING rule of the 21st Century CURES Act specifies that all Progress Notes must be released to the patient. This level of sharing is, although culturally a difficult change, is the right thing to do for patient care.

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