Health Professionals Consider New Approaches to Recording a Patient’s Journey

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Mar 07, 2017
by Oscar Tollast
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Health Professionals Consider New Approaches to Recording a Patient’s Journey

Cross-sectoral mix of Fellows to discuss issues of transparency and the future of medical records  

In today’s world, people have the ability to measure and track their health using a device on their wrist or a smartphone in their pocket. A smartphone can now store a person’s Medical ID, their medical records, their eating and sleeping habits, and remind someone when to go for a walk or have a drink of water. In a promotional video, one smartphone company claims that by better knowing your health, the better you know yourself. This is based on a patient’s relationship with their smartphone, but what about their relationship with their doctor? How can patient empowerment better enhance the patient-clinician relationship?

In 1998, a Salzburg Global session, Through the Patient's Eyes: Collaboration between Patients and Health Care Professionals, saw teams of health professionals, patient advocates, artists, and more lay the foundations for the country of “PeoplePower,” a nation whose health system was built “through the patients’ eyes.” At the heart of this concept was an Internet-based patient record, which “resides nowhere but is available everywhere.” Patients would have access to their medical record but would also be urged to edit, track and prioritize needs.

As acknowledged, there have been several new approaches to medical records since this meeting took place. In the US, secure electronic patient portals are accessible to millions of individuals. Organizations like OpenNotes, meanwhile, have inspired major health systems to invite patients to read and respond to notes written by their health providers. Similar practices are spreading across the world, and the technology continues to evolve. 

This March, a cross-sectoral mix of health professional, providers, policymakers, patients, commentators, and journalists are expected to convene at Schloss Leopoldskron for the Salzburg Global Seminar session Toward a Shared Culture of Health: Enriching and Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship. Teams of four or five Fellows from diverse countries have been invited to take part in the five-day meeting.

The session, which is being supported by OpenNotes, and follows on from the ground-breaking 1998 session, will have a strong focus on aggregating experiences to create new approaches to developing and recording a patient’s journey. The session will be co-chaired by Tom Delbanco and Tobias Esch. Dr. Delbanco is Koplow-Tullis Professor of General Medicine and Primary Care at Harvard Medical School and was instrumental in the 1998 session, while Professor Esch is Professor of Integrative Primary Health Care at Witten/Herdecke University. 

During the session, participants from countries including Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Canada, the US, the UK will receive support from a panel of experts from a broad range of domains. They will analyze the challenges presented in PeoplePower. They will work in country teams, but plenaries, knowledge cafes and role playing exercises will enable participants from different countries to mix and learn from one another.

Salzburg Global Program Director John Lotherington said: "This session is set to be a milestone in Salzburg Global’s work on person and patient centered care, exploring how the sharing and co-creation of medical records between physician and patient can transform their relationship in further creative ways."

Among other questions, participants will be expected to ask themselves: 

  • If fully transparent communication becomes a foundation for the future patient-clinician relationship, how will medical practice evolve?
  • Can open medical records become central vehicles for engaging individuals actively in maintaining and restoring health, and in managing illness?
  • How might transparency and co-creation of medical records help people become better stewards of their own health outside of the clinical setting?
  • How might greater transparency promote community engagement in designing systems to deliver care both needed and wanted?

The session will aim to provide participants with new insights and tools to inform action plans in their own countries as medical records and self-care continue to evolve. They will be expected to disseminate what they’ve learned using social media and publications which are consumed by a broad range of health professionals, patients, and laypersons.


The Salzburg Global program Toward a Shared Culture of Health: Enriching and Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship is part of the multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century. The session is being supported by OpenNotes. More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburglobal.org/go/553. You can follow all the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SGShealth