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Mayo Clin Proc. 2011 May;86(5):397-405. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2010.0785.

No change in physician dictation patterns when visit notes are made available online for patients.

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  • 1Park Nicollet Institute, Minneapolis, MN 55416, USA.



To determine whether physicians document office visits differently when they know their patients have easy, online access to visit notes.


We conducted a natural experiment with a pre-post design and a nonrandomized control group. The setting was a multispecialty group practice in Minnesota. We reviewed a total of 400 visit notes: 100 each for patients seen in a rheumatology department (intervention group) and a pulmonary medicine department (control group) from July 1 to August 30, 2005, before online access to notes, and 100 each for patients seen in these 2 departments 1 year later, from July 1 to August 30, 2006, when only rheumatology patients had online access to visit notes. We measured changes in visit note content related to 9 hypotheses for increased patient understanding and 5 for decreased frank or judgmental language.


Changes occurred for 2 of the 9 hypotheses related to patient understanding, both in an unpredicted direction. The proportion of acronyms or abbreviations increased more in the notes of rheumatologists than of pulmonologists (0.6% vs 0.1%; P=.01), whereas the proportion of anatomy understood decreased more in the notes of rheumatologists than of pulmonologists (-5.9% vs -0.8%; P=.02). One change (of 5 possible) occurred related to the use of frank or judgmental terms. Mentions of mental health status decreased in rheumatology notes and increased in pulmonology notes (-8% vs 7%; P=.02).


Dictation patterns appear relatively stable over time with or without online patient access to visit notes.

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