OBJECTIVE: This study evaluates and characterizes the use of a confidential clinic note type as part of the implementation of open notes at a free-standing children's hospital. We describe how this electronic health record feature which disables patient and family access to selected notes in the patient portal is used across our institution, which clinicians are using this feature, and the type of data our clinicians consider confidential.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Through retrospective chart review, we have evaluated the use of a confidential note type over a 1-year period.
RESULTS: We identified 402 964 clinic notes created during a 1-year period, of which 9346 (2.3%) were flagged as confidential. Use of this confidential note type was associated with female patient sex and increase in patient age. It was used most frequently by a small subset of providers. 922 (83.8%) of 1100 notes manually reviewed contained sensitive information. Reasons for confidential notes varied, but patient's mental health was most commonly identified.
DISCUSSION: Our data demonstrate variability in the use of a confidential note type across specialties, patient ages, and types of confidential information. This note type is frequently utilized by a subset of providers who often manage sensitive patient and parent information. As vendors and institutions enable open notes, thoughtful implementation and provider education surrounding the use of this confidential feature is needed.
CONCLUSION: A confidential clinic note feature is an integral aspect of pediatric open notes implementation. This feature supports protection of confidential information pertaining to our patients and their caregivers.