ONC: Docs sharing data more with patients than other providers

Physicians increasingly are sharing patient health information, but are doing so more with patients than with other providers, according to a new data brief published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The brief, which attributes payment reform as the primary driver for the change, found that 57 percent of physicians electronically shared health information with patients in 2014, up from 46 percent in 2013. Fifty-two percent exchanged secure messages with patients, up from 40 percent in 2013; 47 percent had patients view, download and/or transmit data in 2014, up from 33 percent.

Data sharing also increased from provider to provider, but in lower numbers. For instance, 42 percent of physicians electronically shared patient information with other providers, up from 39 percent in 2013. However, only 26 percent shared with unaffiliated ambulatory providers; another 11 percent shared, but only with affiliated/internal ambulatory providers.

Only 9 percent of physicians shared patient data with an unaffiliated hospital; another 18 percent shared information with an affiliated hospital.

The numbers were even lower with provider types not participating in the Meaningful Use program. Only 12 percent of physicians had shared information with a home health provider; 11 percent with a behavioral health provider and 11 percent with a long-term care provider.  

The new national estimates of physician data sharing were based on nationally representative surveys conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

"It is a national priority for a majority of individuals and providers along the care continuum to electronically send, receive, find, and use health information by 2017," the brief states. "Although the proportion of physicians who electronically shared patient health information with other providers increased 7 percent between 2013 and 2014, only four in 10 physicians electronically shared patient health information with other providers in 2014. In contrast, physicians' electronic information sharing with patients had double-digit increases between 2013 and 2014."

Interestingly, the data brief does not mention the Meaningful Use program, which is likely the real driver for the increase in data sharing. Stage 2 of the program, which requires more health information exchange and patient engagement, began in 2014.

The data brief also doesn't acknowledge that data exchange is likely lower with non-Meaningful Use program participants since they have lower rates of EHR adoption, nor does it address the myriad problems providers have had with interoperability, which has hindered their ability to share data with other providers.

To learn more:
- here's the data brief