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Searching for the Value of Patient Feedback in an EHR

February 6, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Is patient feedback valuable when ensuring medical records are accurate?

Backed by a study from the Office for the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC), researchers at the Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System and the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago (NORC) recently discovered that patients can help make the information in their EHR more accurate. These results were touted in a recent webinar from the National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC).

According to Prashila Dullabh, M.D., project lead at NORC, the researchers assessed the need for patient feedback in improving the quality of their EHRs through a pilot project at Geisinger. Users of the Geisinger patient portal, MyGeisinger, were encouraged to provide feedback on their medication list within their medical record prior to an office visit. Dullabh says 1500 patients received the feedback form, and approximately 30 percent responded to this offer to update.

Eighty-nine percent of those who had requested a change had it processed. Most of those changes were processed within four days, according to Dullabh. Those who requested changes, on average, requested two changes per submitted form, she says. In a qualitative analysis, through patient focus groups, the researchers found that the majority of patients found the online interactions meaningful. Furthermore, many were eager to provide feedback in other areas of their personal health record, not just the medication list.

Overall, the results of the study support a proposed measure for Stage 3 of Meaningful Use under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (ARRA/HITECH). The proposal, recently submitted by the government’s Health IT Policy Committee, would have eligible providers make it possible for patients to request amendments to their online records.

Earlier in the webinar, Dr. Dullabh and others on the call cited additional research that showed where patient input could come in handy. Citing a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and elsewhere, they said that the inaccuracy rate of medical records in one healthcare environment was as high as 95 percent. Researchers found omission rates of medication lists ranged from 27 percent to 53 percent in the same study.

The webinar participants also cited a study from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which found that more activated patients were less likely to be readmitted within 30 days, experience a medical error, or suffer a health consequence from poor communication among providers. Erin Poetter Siminerio, a consumer eHealth policy analyst at ONC, stated during the webinar that these studies prove “There are a number of benefits from patients having this information, having a better understanding, and feeling more in control.”

NeHC, which is a non-profit public-private partnership of various healthcare stakeholders, has focused much of its recent efforts on patient engagement. This particular webinar was a follow-up to a webinar from May of last year, called, “Keeping EHRs Error-Free: The Value of Patient Engagement.”

In terms of the ideal kind of data that patients can give feedback on to increase the accuracy of their EHR, Norman K. Sondheimer, Ph.D., co-director of the Electronic Enterprise Institute (EEI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, pointed to medication allergies, immunizations, demographics, as well as family history. Overall, the webinar participants believe the NORC/Geisinger pilot is proof patients can be effectively engaged to provide meaningful, accurate feedback.