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AHA: Patients’ Ability to Electronically Access Their Medical Records is Increasing

July 15, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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More than 90 percent of hospitals now offer patients the capability to view electronic medical records (EMRs) online, and most offer the ability to perform related tasks, according to new research from the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The data, from the 2015 AHA Annual Survey Information Technology Supplement, which last month publicized several trends related to hospital data exchange, further revealed that now, with the adoption of EMRs, many more hospitals are offering individuals online access to their medical records. Indeed, in 2015, 92 percent of hospitals offered the ability to view medical records, compared to 43 percent of hospitals in 2013. What’s more, 84 percent of hospitals allowed patients to download information from their medical record, up from 30 percent of hospitals in 2013; and 70 percent of hospitals allowed a referral summary to be sent to a third party; only 13 percent of hospitals offered this function in 2013.

Hospitals also are able, in many cases, to offer patients the ability to perform everyday healthcare tasks online, according to the AHA report. These capabilities include the ability to schedule appointments, order prescription refills and submit payment. Offering these functions can be complex, as it integrates data from other areas within the hospital, such as scheduling, pharmacy and revenue cycle systems, which may not be easy to connect, the report authors noted. So as hospitals invest in solutions to allow online collaboration between units, the ability to offer these services will likely continue to expand, they predict. In 2015: 74 percent of hospitals provided the capability of paying bills online, up from 56 percent in 2013; 45 percent of hospitals allowed patients to schedule appointments online, in comparison to 31 percent in 2013; 44 percent of hospitals were able to allow patients to refill prescriptions online; 30 percent of patients could order refills in 2013.

Further, the ability for individuals to communicate online with providers continues to expand, the data showed. Between in-person visits, patients may have questions for providers that would otherwise require a phone call or another visit to the office. However, a growing number of hospitals now provide an additional way for patients to communicate with their care providers between visits. In 2015, 63 percent of hospitals allowed patients to message their providers online, an increase of 8 percentage points from 2014.

A smaller, but increasing, percentage of hospitals allow their patients to submit patient-generated data to their provider online, which can help physicians monitor and evaluate the patient’s condition between visits. Thirty-seven percent of hospitals provided the ability for patients to submit data in 2015, a significant increase from 14 percent of hospitals in 2013.

The AHA report’s authors conclude, “Hospitals are offering individuals more electronic access to their medical information than ever before. Patients also have a growing ability to interact with their providers and to perform routine tasks online. As more hospitals are able to offer these services, individuals will have more insight into their medical data and the ability to interact with care providers at times and in ways that are convenient for the patient.”

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