The HITECH Act gives consumers the right to access their electronic health records in an electronic format. But many security experts believe that under final rules, giving patients the records on a CD or thumb drive won't meet the intent of the law, says Lou Ann Wiedemann, director of professional practice resources at the American Health Information Management Association in Chicago.

She believes 'electronic' will mean access to a particular patient's records in a provider's EHR via a Web portal or a cloud computing application, "and not an electronic version of your EHR," Wiedemann says. "The industry is hoping CD or a thumb drive will be okay, but everyone is waiting on the final rule before they start to plan how to do this."

During an educational session at AHIMA's annual convention, Oct. 1-6 in Salt Lake City, Wiedemann will walk attendees through understanding patient rights to access their electronic records and request amendments to the records, a first step toward compliance following release of a final rule.

With patient demand for electronic copies of health records unknown, providers likely will have to retain their current processes for printing and delivering records on paper. Health information management departments, however, will have to develop an education program for patients getting an electronic version, Wiedemann says. "On paper, progress notes are in yellow and the problem list is in blue, but when printed from an EHR it's a different format and not visually distinct, so be prepared to field questions and engage in consumer education."

Educational session 6423, "Understanding Patient Access and Amendments," is scheduled at 1:00 p.m. on October 4. More information is available at ahima.org.

 

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