OpenNotes in oncology: Oncologists’ perceptions and a baseline of the content and style of their clinician notes

Jordan M. Alpert, Bonny B. Morris, Maria D. Thomson, Khalid Matin, Charles E. Geyer, Richard F. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Patients’ ability to access their provider’s clinical notes (OpenNotes) has been well received and has led to greater transparency in health systems. However, the majority of this research has occurred in primary care, and little is known about how patients’ access to notes is used in oncology. This study aims to understand oncologists’ perceptions of OpenNotes, while also establishing a baseline of the linguistic characteristics and patterns used in notes. Data from 13 in-depth, semistructured interviews with oncologists were thematically analyzed. In addition, the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program evaluated over 200 clinician notes, measuring variables encompassing emotions, thinking styles, social concerns, and parts of speech. Analysis from LIWC revealed that notes contained negative emotional tone, low authenticity, high clout, and high analytical writing. Oncologists’ use of stigmatized and sensitive words, such as “obese” and “distress,” was mainly absent. Themes from interviews revealed that oncologists were uncertain about patients’ access to their notes and may edit their notes to avoid problematic terminology. Despite their reluctance to embrace OpenNotes, they envisioned opportunities for an improved patient–provider relationship due to patients initiating interactions from viewing notes. Oncologists believe notes are not intended for patients and altering their content may compromise the integrity of the note. This study established a baseline for further study to compare notes pre-implementation to post-implementation. Further analysis will clarify whether oncologists are altering the style and content of their notes and determine the presence of patient-centered language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-356
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational Behavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Electronic medical record
  • Health communication
  • OpenNotes
  • Patient portal
  • Patient–provider communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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