Patients’ ability to access medical records levels off, ONC contends

Patients have more ways to access their medical records, but the percentage of those offered access to their health information has remained static.

The percentage of individuals offered access to their medical record—about 50 percent—did not change between 2017 and 2018, according to a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology that examines patients’ access to view and use their online medical records.

Access to information is essential for individuals who want to better manage their healthcare needs, and share information with providers and other caregivers, ONC notes. Further, many hospitals and physician practices can help patients get and use their information, yet more work is needed to make the records more accessible and useful.

Many patients increasingly say that access to their health records is important.

Among individuals who had been offered access to an online medical record, nearly six in 10 viewed the record at least once in 2018, according to the report, written by Vaishali Patel, a senior advisor in the Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation and Modeling in ONC, and Christian Johnson.

Access to online medical records varies by individuals’ healthcare use, socio-demographic characteristics, Internet access, use and whether they have a chronic condition.

Patients with household income of $75,000 or more were more likely to be offered access to the online record than were those with lower incomes. Persons with chronic conditions also were more likely to get access.

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Reasons why persons offered access but did not use it included preferring to speak to a provider directly, not needing to use the online record, privacy and security concerns of online records, no longer having an online record and no access to the website.

Also See: Barriers to patients getting their health data are falling

The ONC research also shows that many individuals may not have confidence in the accuracy of the records. Nearly eight in 10 who viewed their medical record reported that it included summaries of their office visits in the previous year.

The availability of online records has opened a new communications channel between patients and providers.

Half of individuals who viewed their record used it to communicate with providers via secure messaging in 2018.

The communications included medication refill requests, filling out forms, updating the record, correcting the record and adding additional health information.

Making it easier for individuals to use apps and share their record may enable them to better manage their health while also addressing gaps in interoperability, according to the ONC report.

ONC has a proposed rule to make patient health information from electronic health records accessible through application programming interfaces. APIs enable a software developer to create programs and mobile apps that interact with other software without needing to know the internal workings of the software.
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