According to recent data from HHS, an impressive ninety-two percent of hospitals report having a system in place to provide patients with an electronic copy of their health record within three business days of a request. Yet, the number of patients requesting a digital copy of their health record in one year, according to two-thirds of hospitals: one or none. The survey hints at a striking disconnect between what’s technically available and a patient’s understanding of access. Just 38 percent of patients with an electronic health record-enabled provider report being offered a copy by a clinician or insurer. Even when patients do know that records can be emailed, many experience complications in the requesting process.
Sharing access to health records improves transparency between a clinician and patient and gives patients a more grounded understanding in their health and health decisions over time. Everyone has had that moment after leaving an appointment or hospital stay when you realize that you can’t remember an instruction or a medication name. Without an easy way to get ahold of your health record, you’re stuck with calling the clinic for clarification. But when health records are available—and patients are aware that they can get access—patients are given the opportunity to become more informed, proactive, and engaged in everyday health, planning, and health decision-making down the road.
Changing the experience for patients—and reversing the attestation report’s bleak findings—can be accomplished by increasing awareness about a patient’s right to request their medical records and the systems already in place in hospitals and clinics to provide them.