Patient Access to Electronic Health Records: Should More Control Be Handed Over?

According to a recent Accenture survey, “Patient Access to Electronic Health Records: What Does the Doctor Order?” published on iHealthBeat, 79 percent of surveyed U.S. doctors say that patients should be able to update all demographic information in their electronic health record.

The report suggests that 16 percent of surveyed U.S. doctors say that patients should be able to update some demographic information in their EHR and 5 percent say that patients should not have the ability to update any demographic data.

“Sixty-seven percent of surveyed U.S. doctors say that patients should be able to update all family history information in their EHR, while 21 percent say that patients should be able update some family history data and 12 percent say that patients should not have the ability to update any family history information,” according to the study.

Twenty-five percent of surveyed U.S. doctors say that patients should be able to update all of their laboratory test results in their EHR, while 28 percent say that patients should be able to update some lab test results and 47 percent say that patients should not have the ability to update any lab test data.

On behalf of Accenture, Harris Interactive conducted the online survey of 500 U.S. physicians between November 2012 and December 2012.

This is an interesting topic that seems to have many foes and fans, and I can see the perspective from each side. On one hand, allowing access to a personal record may allow for breeches of information, HIPAA violations and may create a slippery slope to a movement for patients to have full editorial access to their records. Obviously, doing so creates more many more problems than it solves.

The benefits to such a move – allowing patients to input their demographic data into their personal health record – may lead to greater patient engagement, which seems to be healthcare’s sticky wicket, and it may help practices struggling with being overwhelmed administratively to streamline some of their intake and the management of their information and “pass along the cost,” so to say.

It seems as new solutions come to pass and as we as an industry seek ways to moderate, streamline and create new efficiencies, questions such as the one raised by this survey will be asked more and more. As the questions become more well circulated and discussed, the issues they address will move toward the acceptable and standard practice as they gain ground within the society we have created.

As such, though there may be initial resistance, like all cultures built to change, what was once unacceptable will become standard practice.

Given the issue raised by these questions, I wonder what level of change we’ll see in regard to this in the near term. My hunch is that in an effort to include more people in the process, to streamline and to offload some of the administrative responsibility, we’ll see tactics such as these be incorporated more often, and more “power” given to the patients.

I wonder what your thoughts are on this subject, and what your perspectives are. Do you agree with the survey results? Should patients be allowed to change any of the data in their records or does it make sense to include them in the administrative management of the record?

Patients Want Electronic Interaction with Their Physicians, but Not Sure How to Get It

Those who conceived and brought meaningful use to life can apparently chalk up another victory, according to a new survey conducted by Accenture.

As told by For the Record, patients overwhelming want access not only to their medical records and personal health information through connected devices (mobile or otherwise), but they also want direct electronic access to their physicians.

By “access to their physicians,” I mean they want to interact with their caregivers through web portals and email. Actually, respondents of this survey (88 percent) said they want to receive email appointment reminders from their physicians, while 76 percent of survey takers said they want the option of email consultations directly with their physicians.

Enter the patient portal. Secure, web-based portals that, for most EHR systems, allow patients the opportunity to interact directly with their physicians, view lab results (in certain non-overly sensitive cases), schedule appointments and make payments, among other things. The same patient portals that are required ingredients of meaningful use certified EHR systems.

Despite the arguments over the benefits or lack thereof of meaningful use, the requirement that EHRs contain patient portals so patients and their caregivers can interact with each other seems to be giving the patients exactly what they want.

In the very least, at least according to the results of this survey, patients are more likely to engage with physicians and take greater ownership of their care if they are simply allowed to communicate with their doctors electronically.

And given the seemingly current lack of patient engagement that’s prevalent in our healthcare community, anything that sparks interest in patients should be considered a welcome sign to every healthcare professional. After all, patient engagement will continue to become more popular as consumers take greater ownership of their care as they discover that their healthcare providers are actually easier to access because of electronic health records and patient portals.

Unfortunately, however, the average patient doesn’t know whether his physician offers a practice portal or if the practice uses an EHR as fewer than half of the 1,100 survey participants in the Accenture study didn’t know whether they had access to such systems.

Despite this minor detail, there’s plenty in this survey to celebrate. Specifically, patients clearly want to access their health records electronically and they want to be able to connect with their physicians when they want or need through any connected device wherever they are in the world.

The other good news here, for practice professionals anyway, is that there is plenty of room for and an abundance of opportunity to educate patients about a practice’s internal technology systems. Patients clearly want to know more about the technology their physicians are using in their practices.

If you don’t currently have these systems in place, engaging patients is a great way to find out what they might like to see from you in the future and, if nothing else, the information gathered helps you build and develop your practice and tailor it to your customer’s needs.