How patients can gather, store their digital health records

Patients have a right to their electronic medical records and should exercise that right, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.

The article decries the fact that many patients don't realize that HIPAA entitles them to that information--a right that now extends to records in digital form, courtesy of the HITECH Act. However, it's also not easy to obtain one's electronic records, since they're in different providers' EHRs, due to the "fragmented" healthcare delivery system. In contrast, other industries, such as banking and travel, make information management easier, the article notes.

Putting all of one's records in one digital location can improve care coordination and enable patients to identity and thus reduce errors in them.

The article recommends that individuals take the following steps to obtain their digital patient records:

  • Exercise their legal right to receive the information
  • Receive it in the format they wish, even flash drive or by email, if the provider has records in electronic form
  • Educate one's physicians, since they're required to make the records available, noting that most providers are in the federal Meaningful Use program, which entitles patients to view, download and transmit their electronic records
  • Choose a personal health record application so that the disparate electronic records can be unified in one location.

Patient and provider misconceptions about the right of patients to access their records is a recurring problem, so much so that the Office for Civil Rights intends to issue guidance on the topic later this year.  Programs that openly encourage patients to access their digital records, such as the OpenNotes program, have found it a positive experience.

Allowing patients access to clinical notes in the EHRs may at some point become the standard of care.

To learn more:
- read the article