OpenNotes Sets Sights on AI in Healthcare with New OpenNotes Lab

OpenNotes Lab will convene patients, providers, and health IT developers to assess how AI will change clinical documentation and patient communication.

OpenNotes, the patient advocacy group that’s historically led the charge for better patient data access, is dipping its toes in the AI waters with OpenNotes Labs, an initiative to understand how artificial intelligence fits into the patient experience.

Unveiled at the 2024 ViVE event, OpenNotes Labs said it aims to assess how AI will augment the patient experience, both by changing patient-provider communication and clinical documentation.

“Through the Lab we’ll work closely with the developers of clinical documentation technologies and investigate new avenues for translating our extensive experience into processes that help patients and clinicians alike,” Catherine M. DesRoches, DrPH, executive director of OpenNotes at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) who is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement about the OpenNotes Lab.

In particular, OpenNotes Lab will advocate for the use of healthcare AI that furthers patient trust and patient-provider communication. “In this context, the Lab will design, evaluate, and guide innovations in clinical documentation, medical records, and patient engagement,” OpenNotes says on its website.

In these initial stages, OpenNotes Lab is looking at how consumers can use patient engagement technology to support their own care management; how AI will change patient-provider communication; how AI can support providers seeking to improve their patient interactions; and how AI algorithms can be built without bias.

“Addressing algorithmic bias and its implications in research and health equity is of paramount importance,” John Halamka, MD, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform and advisor to the OpenNotes Lab, said in the press release. “In my 40 year healthcare IT career, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of open notes. OpenNotes’ wide experience and rigorous approach to inquiry will facilitate unique collaborations among patients, clinicians and technology partners in meaningful ways.”

OpenNotes Lab appears to be something of a next frontier for OpenNotes, which made its mark on the healthcare industry by calling for greater transparency in medical record access. Those pushes for patient data access have become a reality—at least in terms of regulatory compliance—under the 21st Century Cures Act, which mandated patient access to clinical notes as part of its information blocking rules.

Tom Delbanco, MD, the co-founder of OpenNotes at BIDMC, said OpenNotes Lab is the next step in patient advocacy, especially as AI has begun to transform how care gets documented and patients interact with their providers.

“Fifteen years ago, when we began inviting patients to review clinical notes, we were seen as radicals,” explained Delbanco, who is also the John F. Keane & Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Since then, we and many others have learned that the benefits for patients, families and clinicians far outweigh the risks. We need now to build transparency seamlessly into the fabric of care. Working with new technologies and partnerships will help us make that happen.”

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Patient data access

xtelligent Health IT and EHR