National hospital data shows patients not accessing EHRs

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While more than 95 percent of patients discharged from hospitals were able to view, download and transmit their electronic health records, just 10 percent actually used the information, according to national hospital data.

A study published in the journal Health Affairs leveraged nationwide data from 2,410 hospitals and found that patient use of EHRs was disproportionately low across all hospital types—although access rates were highest among system-member, teaching and for-profit hospitals.

“In contrast, access rates were lower for hospitals in the highest quartile for disproportionate share hospital status and for hospitals located in counties with high proportions of residents who were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid; use rates were lower for hospitals in counties with a high proportion of residents who were dually eligible, lacked computer or internet access or were Hispanic,” state the study’s authors.

Researchers from Portland State University and the University of California San Francisco contend that policy efforts have failed to engage a large proportion of patients in the use of their EHR data or to bridge the “digital divide” that is associated with healthcare disparities.

In addition, investigators suggest that policymakers consider targeted policy incentives as well as higher thresholds for meeting the requirements of the Promoting Interoperability Program—the most recent iteration of the original Meaningful Use program, designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to encourage providers to demonstrate effective use of certified EHR technology.

Although hospitals are financially incentivized by CMS through the Promoting Interoperability Program to offer patients access to their EHRs, the study’s authors point out that only one patient needs to access those records to qualify for continued funding.

“They’re not required to actively recruit people to use it,” says Sunny Lin, assistant professor in the Oregon Health & Science University- Portland State University School of Public Health, who led the study.

Lin adds that “there's something there that hospitals could be doing on their own to get more people to use the record.”

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