Why More Patients are Engaged With their Health Records

May 1, 2018

An ONC report finds that more patients are engaged with their health records. Here’s why.

In efforts to educate patients about their health information, more providers are offering online health records to their patients, according to a new report.

According to an April 2018 report by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), more than half of patients surveyed report that health providers or insurers offered them access to their online health records in 2017.

By offering access to health records, providers are empowering patients to be more active in their health and wellness, says Peter Ashkenaz, spokesperson for the ONC.

“Providers play a critical role in patient engagement,” Ashkenaz says. “Our data brief found that individuals who were offered and encouraged to use an online medical record by their healthcare provider were nearly two times more likely to access their medical record compared to those who were offered access but not encouraged to use their record.”

Broadening access

Between 2014 and 2017, the number of patients who were offered access to their health records online has grown. In 2014, 42% of patients say providers or insurers offered them access to their records, and that number jumped to 52% in 2017.

“Given that the patient record request process can take time, it is of great benefit to access one’s data prior to an urgent health need. Additionally, healthy individuals may also benefit from correcting errors in their medical record before a health issue occurs. Among individuals that accessed their medical record online, almost one in 10 requested a correction to information in their record,” the report’s authors said.

However, even when offered access, only 28% of patients reported viewing their own health record within the last year. The report says that the majority of patients who didn’t view their record either chose to speak directly with providers (76%) or didn’t have a need to view their record (59%). One-quarter of patients surveyed had concerns about privacy and security around viewing their record online, and 20% say that do not have a way to access their record online.

Getting more patients on board

The report suggests that providers can also explain to healthy patients the benefits of reviewing their health records. Ashkenaz says that providers can offer easier enrollment into online portals to help patients access records more.

“EHRs allow practitioners to provide instant and secure access to health records for patients as well as other providers,” Ashkenaz says. “A portal which provides a view of the patient health record stored in the EHR, enables patients to access their health information at their convenience, when they need the information. They have access to information as it is updated in their EHR.  In contrast, a request would need to be made of office staff to fax or mail a paper chart. Thus, EHRs allow for more efficient and updated access to the health record.”

Most popular EHR features

The most popular features used by patients who accessed their records online included:

·      Viewing test results

·      Securely messaging healthcare provider and staff

·      Requesting prescription refills

·      Completing paperwork

·      Making online appointments.

Only 17% of patients have downloaded their records and only 14% have transmitted their records to another healthcare provider or to a caregiver, according to the report. These advanced features offer an opportunity to engage and empower patients even more, Ashkenaz says.

“Individuals may not be aware of the benefits of these more advanced functions, nor of their right, per HIPAA, to request sending their medical record to a designated third party. These functionalities may also not work well in online medical records and many providers or apps may not possess the capabilities to receive and incorporate such information,” the report authors wrote. “However, recent market developments suggest that increased adoption of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources [FHIR] will enable more individuals to use apps to store, manage, and transmit their health records across a variety of devices.”

 

Donna Marbury is a writer in Columbus, Ohio.