To boost engagement, remove barriers to consumers' access to records

As healthcare organizations seek to boost consumer engagement, it's important to understand how traditional policies on access to health information might cause roadblocks, according to a practice brief at the Journal of AHIMA.

Policies and practices should be continuously examined and updated to ensure that they do not present impediments to consumer engagement, authors of the brief write.

Among its recommended best practices:

  • Work with clinicians to include a comprehensive set of clinical information, including doctors' notes and other forms of documentation, so that patients using a portal have more than just appointment times and lab results.
  • Create a "one-stop shop" for archived paper records, compact discs, diagnostic imaging media, pathology slides, etc.
  • Ensure that there's an automated response to requests for clarifications, corrections, or amendments to confirm receipt of the request and that requests are routed to the appropriate person.
  • Create policies and design workflows for accepting and managing patient-generated health information, such as such as blood pressure or glucose levels, self management diaries and family histories.

Online patient portals and the Blue Button initiative can reduce the time and cost involved, so the paper discourages charging patients for access to their records.

Though few organizations provide patients with complete access to doctor's notes and other documents, patients increasingly are seeking that access. The paper encourages health information management professionals to get involved in committees or boards focused on consumer engagement within their own organizations and also on the community, state and national level. They can play a big role in educating providers as well as the public about consumer engagement. It also urges involvement in Blue Button initiatives.

Participants in the OpenNotes experimental program wrote recently in an op-ed article the New England Journal of Medicine that opening doctor's notes to patients has physicians more careful about how they write them. They foresee open notes becoming the standard of care.

David Levin, chief medical information officer of Cleveland Clinic Health System, says gaining value out of health IT will be "messy," but urges retaining focus on the problem to be solved with technology. Focus on results will make the difference, he says.

To learn more:
- find the practice brief

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