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Ability of patients to access electronic records rises dramatically

The number of U.S. hospitals that enable patients to electronically view, download, and transmit their health information grew nearly seven times between 2013 and 2015, according to data gathered by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The results, published in a new ONC data brief, show that last year:

  • 95 percent of the nation’s hospitals provided patients with the ability to view their health information electronically.
  • 87 percent provided individuals with the ability to download their health information.
  • 71 percent offered patients the ability to transmit their health information.
  • 69 percent of hospitals provided individuals with the ability to view, download, and transmit their health information.

According to the agency, providing view, download, and transmit availability is an important means of enabling the right of individuals to get and use their health information under HIPAA. Nonetheless, ONC’s data brief notes that “as of 2015, disparities exist in the adoption of view, download and transmit functionalities between large hospitals and other types of hospitals (e.g., medium, small, and Critical Access Hospitals).”

Almost eight in 10 large hospitals had all three capabilities last year, while just about six in 10 critical access hospitals had view, download and transmit functionalities.

At Tuesday’s joint meeting of the Health IT Policy and Standards committees, ONC presented an update on hospital adoption of patient engagement capabilities based on an analysis of American Hospital Association Annual Survey–IT Supplement data.

Vaishali Patel, a senior ONC advisor, told the committees that the percentage of hospitals with view, download and transmit capabilities rose markedly nationwide between 2013 and 2015.

In 2013, no states had 40 percent or more of their hospitals with all three electronic capabilities, according to Patel. But, by 2015, all states had 40 percent or more of their hospitals with view, download and transmit capabilities, she reported.

Also See: AHA lauds growth in patient access to electronic records

“There’s been tremendous growth in a relatively short period of time in hospitals’ adoption of patient engagement capabilities—particularly view, download and transmit—and that is likely associated with the CMS EHR Incentive Programs and the adoption of certified EHR technology,” observed Patel. “Rural and smaller hospitals, however, have lower rates of view, download and transmit capabilities, likely reflecting lower rates of certified EHR technology adoption—and that will require continued monitoring.”

At the same time, she said that there have been significant increases also in hospital adoption of other electronic patient engagement capabilities. Last year, 77 percent of hospitals enabled patients to request an amendment to their health data, while 74 percent offered patients the ability to electronically pay their bills. In addition, 63 percent of hospitals enabled patients to send or receive secure messages electronically.

“Interestingly enough, with regard to submitting patient-generated data, 37 percent of hospitals are providing that capability—which has increased about three-fold since 2013,” added Patel.

She said that there has been a significant decline in the percent of hospitals adopting three or less patient engagement functionalities, while there was a significant increase in hospitals offering seven or more capabilities to patients. And, overall, almost 90 percent of hospitals provide at least four patient engagement functionalities as of 2015, according to Patel.

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