The power of our voices: Thinking about the language we use in medicine, and the positive consequences of open notes. With Dr. Leonor Fernández.

Medical notes capture information that informs decision making. They can also reveal how healthcare providers are judging their patients, and patients reading those notes can feel offended, shamed and stigmatized by what they read. Since the enactment of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act in 2021, U.S. federal law now gives everyone the right to read clinicians’ notes in their electronic medical records, a process called open notes.

Drawing from her work as a Latina primary care clinician and health equity advocate, and as a Harvard Professor, Dr. Fernández highlights the importance of language and culture in medicine and in our medical notes. In this episode hosted by Dr. Minerva Campos, we explore how language and literacy shape our ability to offer equitable, meaningful, and respectful care to Latinx, Black and other marginalized populations. We also discuss how transparency is a positive force for equitable care, and explore ways that engaging patients, communities and diverse staff in the design and language of health care is essential for positive transformation.

Link to Dr. Leonor Fernández plenary presentation

“What we have found is that by and large, patients love it. They love having access. Not everyone is accessing their notes, but they want to be able to.” – Dr. Leonor Fernández

“Clinicians and healthcare staff are so stressed these days, and sometimes it can feel like one more thing you are asking me to do, and so it’s hard.” – Dr. Leonor Fernández

“Systems and clinicians need to organize ourselves in order to be effective in delivering equitable care. And there is no quality without equity.” – Dr. Leonor Fernández