ONC: Consumer online access to health records on the rise

Patients' engagement with their electronic health records is increasing, according to two recently published data briefs from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

One of the briefs, on consumer trends, found that the percentage of individuals who reported being offered access to their online medical record by a provider or insurers was 38 percent, up from 28 percent in 2013. In 2014, 55 percent of individuals who were offered such online access viewed their record at least once, up from 46 percent the year before. Of those who accessed the record, 92 percent had access to lab results, 79 percent could see the list of health and medical problems and 74 percent could view their current medications. The top reason for not accessing the record was lack of need.

The second brief, which focused on the electronic capabilities for patient engagement by non-federal acute care hospitals, reported that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of hospitals provided their patients with the opportunity to view, download and/or transmit their electronic information. All states now have hospitals that can offer these capabilities; nine states have 80 percent to 100 percent of their hospitals that can do so.

Hospitals also can increasingly offer to patients other patient engagement functionalities. For instance, 72 percent provide the ability for patients to request amendments to their records, 67 percent allow patients to pay their bills electronically and 51 percent offer patients the ability to send/receive secure messages. Other functionalities offered include the ability to get prescription refills, schedule appointments and submit patient data.

More than three fourths of hospitals (79 percent) offered at least four different ways that patients could engage electronically.

However, the data wasn't completely rosy. Four percent of hospitals offered no patient engagement functionalities; critical access hospitals and small urban ones were less likely to have this capability. In addition, more than 27 percent of individuals remained unaware or did not believe that they had a right to an electronic copy of their medical record.

Patient engagement is a primary component of the Meaningful Use program. However, inadequate portal design and misunderstandings about the right to access records can hamper such efforts.    

To learn more:
- here's the hospital data brief
- read the consumer trend data brief

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