Guide aims to generate patient interest in electronic access to records

The launch is one of several efforts aimed at engaging patients in their health through technology.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Sept. 25, 2012

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One of the reasons cited for so little patient interest in electronic medical record access has been a lack of understanding of the importance of the information contained. Efforts are under way to educate patients on what the records are, why they matter and why patients should review them routinely.

The American Health Information Management Assn. released the guide, “Understanding Your Medical Record,” on Sept. 11. The free guide can be downloaded at a website AHIMA created that also helps patients set up personal health records (link).

“Helping consumers understand the purpose of a medical record and how to access their clinical information will enhance the relationship between a patient and their doctor or health care provider,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon. “By having access to your record, you can play a more active role in your care and enhance the ability to partner with your [doctor].”

Patient engagement was behind the rule under stage 2 of meaningful use, which requires physicians to offer patients an online portal where they can access, download, share and print their medical records. The stage 2 regulations require that physicians get at least 5% of patients to access the portal, a move many doctors and health care organizations disagreed with, citing little interest from patients.

The meaningful use incentive program pays physicians bonuses of up to $44,000 over five years from Medicare, or up to $63,750 over six years from Medicaid, for meeting federal standards in the use of their EHR systems.

A survey published in October 2011 by Manhattan Research found that although 56 million patients said they have accessed their records through their physician’s EHR system, an additional 140 million reported that they have not accessed their records, nor are they interested in doing so.

Some organizations, however, are finding that patients take advantage of the access when it is offered. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center made its records available to patients through a website in 2009. With little promotion of the site, more than 40,000 patients had accessed their records more than 605,000 times by December 2011.

AHIMA’s guide aims to educate consumers on what is contained in medical records and why it’s important that they review them. It educates patients on what to do if they find errors in their records and the necessary steps to have the errors corrected. The guide also explains the benefits of maintaining a personal health record.

The California Healthcare Foundation published a survey in April 2010 that found only 7% of U.S. adults use a PHR. Of those who were not using a PHR, 61% said a lack of need was the primary reason.

The AHIMA guide was unveiled during National Health IT Week, Sept. 10-14, which highlighted the importance of health IT in improving patient care.

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