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Less than One-Third of Consumers Access Health Records Online

Only three in 10 individuals had online access to their medical records last year, according to results of a national survey reported in a new data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

“This is likely related to providers’ limited capabilities prior to implementation of Stage 2 Meaningful Use,” state ONC authors, who point out that fewer than half of all office-based physicians in 2013 had the computerized capability to provide patients the ability to view, download and transmit electronic health record data, and only about a quarter routinely used this capability. Among hospitals, ONC reports that last year fewer than half offered patients access to view health record data, with substantially fewer offering download or transmit capability.

“We expect this percentage will grow as providers’ capabilities increase,” state the authors. Nonetheless, ONC’s brief acknowledges that “performance among eligible professionals who are early attesters of MU2 show low levels of performance on this measure compared to some other MU2 measures.”

The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of more than 2,100 respondents. Using data collected in 2013, the ONC brief provides the “first comprehensive look at the state of consumer access and use of online health records,” states a Sept. 15 blog from the authors from ONC’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis and Office of Consumer e-Health.

About one-third of individuals in the survey also reported a gap in health information among their providers or between themselves and their providers. These gaps included one or more of the following: had to bring an X-ray, MRI, or other type of test result to provider appointment; had to wait for test results longer than individual thought reasonable; had to redo a test or procedure because the earlier test results were not available; had to provide medical history again because individual’s chart could not be found; and had to tell a provider about medical history because they had not gotten records from another provider.

At the same time, the survey reveals that among individuals offered access to their online health records, 46 percent viewed their online record at least once--a rate more than nine times higher than the Stage 2 MU requirement.

“The threshold established for Meaningful Use Stage 2 is that at least five percent of unique individuals given access to online health records should view, download, or transmit those records at least once,” state the authors. “In this survey, almost half of all individuals given online access viewed their record at least once.”

Three-quarters of individuals in the survey who accessed their online record used it to monitor their health. Among individuals who accessed their health information online, about 4 in 10 downloaded their information and about 10 percent sent information from their online record to other technology such as apps and personal health record systems. And, more than 4 in 10 individuals shared their health record with others, including their provider, “suggesting that individuals may be using their online record to address potential gaps in information exchange,” conclude the authors.

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