Despite widespread adoption of electronic health record systems by providers, consumers continue to be frustrated by their inability to access their digital healthcare information, according to a new survey.

Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, consumers have the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of their medical records and billing records held by covered entities such as health plans and providers. However, a survey of more than 500 U.S. consumers planning to enroll in a 2016 health plan found that 53 percent can’t access all of their health data electronically and 60 percent indicated they are unsure or do not have all of their health data stored in EHRs.

In addition, 30 percent of respondents to the survey conducted by clinical engagement vendor HealthMine said they have had trouble accessing their health data when they needed it:

* 32 percent had difficulty accessing their medical record

* 31 percent had difficulty accessing their biometric information

* 29 percent had difficulty accessing their lab record

* 29 percent had difficulty accessing their insurance information

* 25 percent had difficulty accessing their prescription history

This lack of access is having a negative impact on consumer healthcare: 74 percent believe that easy electronic access to health data would improve their knowledge of their health and improve overall communication with their physicians.

“We should be long beyond the days where one doctor holds the chart and we don’t get to see it—but we’re not," said Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine. “Sitting in the driver’s seat of health requires transparency of health data. Consumers must be able to see the road, the potholes and the landmarks. Having access to complete health information is essential to managing health and healthcare dollars—and every consumer should have it.”

Also See: 50 Million Patients to Access Clinical Notes under $10M Effort

However, physicians and consumers differ significantly in their attitudes toward patient-accessible electronic health records. Results of a survey of more than 1,400 providers and 1,100 consumers published in September found that 90 percent were concerned that patients would experience “anxiety” after accessing health records, and 82 percent felt it would lead to requests for unnecessary medical evaluations, but only 34 percent and 25 percent of consumers expressed the same concerns, respectively.

While consumer access and use of electronic health information is growing, additional progress is needed according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. Speaking earlier this month at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., National Coordinator for HIT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., said that about 40 percent of patients can access their electronic health information—mostly through web-based interfaces of patient portals. But, DeSalvo acknowledged that consumers must be able to more easily and securely access their electronic health data, as well as direct it to any desired location.

“This is going to require us to make systems more usable, to connect the systems that already exist, and to see that we’re unlocking that data so that it can be put to the uses that we all want and give us the return on investment that we all desire,” she argued. “We’re about to reach a tipping point where—even remotely— everybody can have access to their electronic health information.”

DeSalvo envisions a not-too-distant future in which consumers can download an app to their smartphone that enables them to access their electronic health information. Nonetheless, she admitted there are some near-term challenges. “The data is not readily available—usable information that we can access, not just through an app but even through the Internet,” concluded DeSalvo.

Likewise, the just-released HealthMine survey found that only about 39 percent of consumer respondents have not attempted to access their clinical health data from a mobile device. Still, those that have tried mobile apps for this purpose have had trouble accessing their information.

 

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