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Majority of Hospitals Allow Patient Access to Health Data; Physicians, Consumers Want More Digital Interaction


Ninety-three percent of hospitals and health systems enable patients to access their health data, interact with health data, and obtain health services, according to a report from the American Hospital Association. In a nationwide poll from Ernst & Young, consumers and physicians indicated that they want more digital interaction in healthcare.

As health information technology (IT) continues make its way into the healthcare sphere, hospitals and health systems have worked to leverage these tools to enhance patient engagement with their health data and their providers, with the goal of optimizing care coordination and, ultimately, patient outcomes.

The 2016 American Hospital Association (AHA) Annual Survey Information Technology Supplement has found that the vast majority of hospitals and health systems provide their patients the ability to access their electronic health records (EHRs).

Collecting responses from community hospitals from November 2016 to April 2017, AHA focused on 3 areas of activity: accessing health data, interacting with health data, and obtaining health services.

In a drastic increase, 93% of hospitals and health systems enable their patients to view information from their EHR online, up from 27% in 2012, according to the report. In 2012, just 16% of hospitals and health systems allowed their patients to download information from their health record; now, 84% do. The survey also found that 83% enable their patients to designate a caregiver to access the information on their behalf.

“Many hospitals and health systems are moving beyond mere access to provide patients with the ability to interact with their health data using health IT,” stated the report, with 73% providing patients the ability to electronically transmit summaries of care to a third party, compared with 13% in 2013. The rate of hospitals and health systems enabling patients to electronically request an amendment to update or change their health record has more than doubled, from 32% in 2012 to 79% in 2017.

As the popularity of health IT has expanded, so has its functionalities. Taking advantage of this, many hospitals and health systems have enabled their patients to electronically obtain healthcare services, including secure messaging and appointment scheduling. The report found that 53% allow patients to request refills for prescriptions online, up from 22% in 2012; 68% allow patients to schedule appointments online, up from 37% in 2012; and 87% allow patients to pay their medical bills online, up from 70% in 2012.

“As the healthcare system continues to evolve, patient access to and interaction with their EHRs will continue to grow,” stated the report. “Hospital and health systems will continue to invest in the required capabilities and collaboration across the healthcare system.”

The report notes that it foresees rural and critical access hospitals, in particular, continuing to expand these functionalities with the increasing prevalence of new care delivery and payment models that are more dependent on access to data and patient engagement.

Mirroring the uptake of health IT in hospitals and health systems, consumers and physicians have indicated their desire for more electronic engagement, according to a recent nationwide poll by Ernst & Young LLP.

More than half of consumers (54%) said that they were comfortable contacting their physician digitally, and a modest amount expressed interest in using technologies like at-home diagnostic testing (36%), using a smartphone or connected device to send information to their physician (33%), and having video consultations (21%). Currently, 63% use or have used technology to track health- or exercise-related data in the past 12 months, with 60% indicating that they would share those data if sharing would assist physicians in treating them.

The survey also revealed a common agreement among physicians that digital technologies and data sharing will effectively contribute to the overall well-being of the population, with 83% believing that increased consumer- and patient-generated data from connected devices would benefit the overall quality of care and enable more personalized plans. Also taking into account burden and cost, 66% of physicians indicated that increased use of digital technology would reduce burden on the healthcare system and its associated costs, and 64% believe that it would reduce burden on doctors and nurses, having a positive effect on physician burnout.

In a recent interview with The American Journal of Managed Care®, Jagmeet P. Singh, MD, PhD, FACC, deputy editor of JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, and Fred Bove, MD, MACC, editor-in-chief of Cardiology magazine, discussed how the integration of data from wearable technology into the EHR and the use of telemedicine promotes greater collaboration between the patients and their physician and health system and is helping the shift from episodic to continuous care.

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