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Survey: Patients Increasingly Using Patient Portals to Access Health Records

October 11, 2017
by Heather Landi
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Four out of five consumers take advantage of their healthcare provider’s patient portal, according to a 2016 survey on consumer access to health information released by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

The survey findings, based on survey responses from 167 consumers, demonstrate the opportunity for healthcare providers and health information management (HIM) professionals to better engage consumers in accessing and using their personal health information (PHI), according to AHIMA.

“Providing individuals with access to their health information is necessary in delivering high-quality care,” Kim Murphy-Abdouch, clinical associate professor of health information management at Texas State University, said in a statement. “With the age of technology, healthcare providers and health information management professionals must adapt to accommodate the increase in demand for PHIs, both electronic and paper.”

The availability of electronic health records has increased significantly since 2009, when the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law, allowing consumers to access their healthcare information in a meaningful and secure manner.

The survey results revealed a significant reduction in charging consumers for access to their medical records; a significant increase in portal availability; and a moderate rate of usage of Personal Health Records (PHR). Those results in comparison with a similar 2013 survey of HIM leaders showed the following key data:

Eighty-two percent of consumers accessed their electronic health record through their provider’s patient portal in 2016, compared to generally less than five percent in 2013.

Among the respondents who used portals, the uses for portals included viewing lab results (35 percent), requesting medication renewal (19 percent), requesting appointments (22 percent), secure messaging (19 percent), and other (5 percent).

Patient portals were available to 83 percent of the respondents, and 90 percent of the portal users were satisfied or very satisfied.

In 2016, only 10 percent of consumers were charged for copies of their personal health information when they were requested compared to 65 percent in 2013.

Less than half of consumers (49 percent) surveyed reported that they maintained a PHR in either paper or electronic form.

Survey results also uncovered consumers who had healthcare experience were no more likely to use a patient portal or maintain their PHR than consumers without healthcare experience. “In fact, opportunities exist to educate not only consumers, but also other healthcare professionals about how to access their information,” the survey report stated.

“Although we have seen a dramatic improvement in patient engagement with their PHI, there is always room for improvement,” AHIMA interim CEO Pamela Lane, said in a statement. “Health information management professionals have an obligation to continue to assist patients and others in accessing and maintaining their own personal health record.”

The results of the survey were released as part of a presentation, “Patient Access to Personal Health Information: An Analysis of the Consumer’s Perspective,” taking place at AHIMA’s 89th Annual Convention & Exhibit in Los Angeles this week.

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