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ONC: Patient Engagement Capabilities Increasing In U.S. Hospitals

October 6, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Last year, six out of 10 hospitals provide patients with the ability to electronically view, download, and transmit their health information, according to a data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The 2014 rules for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program require participating hospitals to enable patients with online access to view, download, and transmit their health information. According to ONC data, which includes data from the American Hospital Association (AHA) Information Technology (IT) Supplement to the AHA Annual Survey, this is a significant increase from 2013, where 1 out of 10 (10 percent) hospitals provided the capability. Further, most hospitals allowed patients to transmit (66 percent) and download (82 percent) health information; however nearly all hospitals (91 percent) allowed patients to view their health information electronically.

The ONC brief was released along with others at its annual Consumer Health IT Summit last week. This particular one describes trends in non-federal acute care hospitals' capability to engage patients with their health information electronically from 2012 to 2014. Not surprisingly, it found that critical access and small urban hospitals lag behind other hospital types on providing patients the ability to electronically view, download, and transmit their health information. Overall, large and medium hospitals provided patients with the ability to electronically view, download, and transmit health information at significantly higher rates than other hospital types.

Additionally, all states have hospitals that provide patients with the ability to view, download, and transmit their health information electronically. In 2013, zero states had more than 40 percent of their hospitals with the electronic capability for patients to view, download, and transmit their health information. This increased to 47 states by 2014. More specifically, in 2013, six states (Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont) had no hospital that allowed patients to electronically view, download, and transmit their health information. By 2014, all states had at least 20 percent of its hospitals with these capabilities.

Increasingly, according to the brief, hospitals are adopting various types of electronic patient engagement capabilities.   Nearly three quarters of hospitals (72 percent) in 2014 had the electronic capability to allow patients to request an amendment to their own health information. This is more than double the amount of hospitals that had this capability in previous years. Also, four out of 10 hospitals allow patients to request prescription refills (39 percent) or schedule appointments online (41 percent), while two-thirds of hospitals allow their patients to pay bills online. Until 2014, this was the most commonly available electronic patient engagement functionality. One in three hospitals allows patients to submit their own data electronically, and 51 percent of hospitals allow their patients to send and receive secure messages electronically. Overall, eight in 10 hospitals can provide patients with four or more electronic engagement capabilities.

“Access to individual health information online is only a starting point,” Karen DeSalvo, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, said in an accompanying blog post. “As a community, we have more work to do to ensure that individuals and their families can fully digest and understand their health information. We need to remove artificial barriers of entry, meaning difficult in-person authentication processes, poor user design platforms or costs for online access so that individuals can receive their data in a digestible format of their choosing and can share their data whenever and with whomever they trust.”





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