• New HHS/ONC Tool Helps Consumers Access Health Records

    April 13, 2018 01:20 pm News Staff – Some patients may come to their next medical appointment ready to talk about a new consumer resource titled "The Guide to Getting and Using Your Health Records" that HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT launched recently.

    Family physicians should be ready for that conversation.

    The online tool -- created to augment the 21st Century Cures Act and the MyHealthEData initiative -- offers patients, parents and caregivers step-by-step assistance on how to

    • access a health record;
    • check the information held there; and
    • use, share and manage that information.

    Physicians can take a quick tour of the consumer-friendly site to get an understanding of what their patients will see there. For instance, the resource includes troubleshooting tips, frequently asked questions and recommendations for patients, such as, "Have you tried your provider's online patient portal?"

    Patient personal health information shown on tablet.

    The site also gives users instructions on how to review medical records for incorrect or missing information and suggests steps to take if they spot something that needs to be updated.

    The final section of the site instructs consumers on to how to use the health information they see -- which includes sharing that data with other physicians who are or will be providing medical care, emergency care teams or caregivers.

    In an April 4 press release, Don Rucker, M.D., the national coordinator for health IT, put it this way: "It's important that patients and their caregivers have access to their own health information so they can make decisions about their care and treatments. This guide will help answer some of the questions that patients may have when asking for their health information."

    According to the release, one of the biggest challenges facing this effort to get patients interested in and engaged with their medical records are patients themselves. "Almost half of Americans in 2017 who were offered access to an online medical record did not access their record, frequently citing a perceived lack of need," said the press release.

    For its part, the AAFP has been closely monitoring progress on the issues of consumer access to medical records, patient engagement in their health care and electronic health record (EHR) interoperability.

    As part of those efforts, the Academy weighed in last month when CMS announced the MyHealthEData initiative. In a March 14 letter(4 page PDF) to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, M.P.H., the AAFP reiterated its support for patients gaining control of their personal health data.

    But the letter also urged CMS to heed AAFP recommendations on ways to make that initiative -- and indeed the whole issue of EHR interoperability -- more physician-friendly.

    Among other things, the AAFP told CMS to consider the time and money physicians expend to improve patients' access to their health care data and to require EHR vendors to provide -- at no cost to physician practices -- any government-mandated EHR updates.

    Related AAFP News Coverage
    AAFP Urges Improvements to Fledgling Patient Data Initiative

    Additional Resource
    CMS Press Release: Trump Administration Announces MyHealthEData Initiative to Put Patients at the Center of the U.S. Healthcare System