Access to EHR data 'overwhelmingly' positive for patients

Providing patients with access to the information in their electronic health records "overwhelmingly" yielded positive benefits, according to a new study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

While patient review of their health data is an opportunity to engage them in their healthcare, some clinicians have expressed concern about such open access. The researchers, from the Veteran's Administration and elsewhere, sought to determine patients' actual experiences with such open access by studying the My HealtheVet EHR access pilot program.  They used focus group interviews conducted at the Portland Ore.-based VA Medical Center, which had the highest percentage (72 percent) of enrollees in the pilot.

The researchers found that patients' access improved communication, coordination of care, and appointment follow-through. It also improved patients' knowledge of their own health, created a greater desire for self care, and increased their participation in their care.

However, while patients preferred such access, they also reported some negative aspects that stress, including reading offensive language in patient notes, inconsistencies in content, and some technical problems with the EHRs.

"As evidence shows that activated patients achieve higher levels of self-care and satisfaction, sharing all clinical notes with patients and their delegates could serve as a fundamental component for the Meaningful Use of electronic records and health information exchange," the researchers said.

Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use incentive program requires increased patient engagement. Consumer groups and others have advocated for even more patient engagement and access to their electronic records.

To learn more:
- read the study