Why Aren’t More Patients Accessing Their Electronic Medical Records?

Decades ago, patients would call their primary care physician if they had any questions about their health. Because patients were more likely to see the same doctor that had taken care of them since they were young, they only had to worry about contacting one physician regarding any questions or concerns they had. Nowadays, people are likely going to see numerous health care providers throughout their life. This may include urgent care visits, new primary physicians they sought care from after moving to a new area, and other medical specialists such as a podiatrist or dermatologist. 

This may be one of the reasons why only a small percentage of patients are accessing their electronic medical records. In our latest blog post, Iron Bridge examines why this trend could be occurring and how the 21st Century Cures Act can help increase the rate of patient access to EHRs. 

3 Factors That Could Explain Why Patient Access to Medical Records Has Taken So Long

Why Legislation Has Held Back Implementation for EHR Access Until Now

Stethoscope, Doctor, Medical, Blood Pressure

A team of researchers recently examined data regarding the number of patients that accessed their electronic health records as a result of the Promoting Interoperability Program. Their findings, which were published in Health Affairs, studied nationwide data from 2,410 hospitals between 2014 and 2016. The researchers discovered that, out of the 95% of patients that were given access to their health information, only 10% of them actually took advantage of the service. 

Weak patient access requirements, misaligned financial incentives, and gaps in usability may have all played significant roles in this phenomenon. 

1. Weak Policy

Healthcare providers did not have a high bar to meet when it came to satisfying requirements for patient access to medical records. In order for an entire organization to obtain financial credit from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, it only needed one patient to access their medical records online. As a result, providers did not need to heavily promote their services. 

Healthcare providers play a large role in encouraging patients to check their medical information online. This is because most patients trust their doctors more than any other profession in regards to their health. In fact, multiple studies have found that 63% of patients who looked at their medical records received encouragement from their physicians to do so. The same study found that only 38% of patients took it upon themselves to view their information. 

2. Misaligned Economic Incentives

Along with this low threshold for hospitals to follow regarding patient access requirements, the federal electronic health records incentive program may have also contributed to a low number of patients accessing their personal health records. This new incentive program was added to a fee-for-service payment system that discouraged data sharing. As a result, healthcare providers only implemented the minimum requirements for the EHR incentive program. These fee-for-service models are often inefficient and result in incurring extra costs on patients. 

3. Usability

Some healthcare providers and patients might be experiencing learning hurdles when it comes to attempting to access their personal health records electronically. Without encouragement or assistance from their physicians, patients might not feel motivated enough to figure out how to view or download their records. It is important for developers to create an accessible and easy-to-use interface where patients can successfully find pertinent health information. 

In order to encourage a higher number of patients accessing their EHR, healthcare providers must improve their current access options. They must also inform and educate patients on the user-friendly interfaces they have designed for them. 

Legislation for the 21st Century Cures Act

Timeline for the Roll-Out of the New Law

united states white house

Back in December of 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. But while the act was signed almost five years ago, there are still numerous healthcare providers who are not compliant with the law. This is partly because the FDA needed $500 million in funds allocated to them over nine years to finish implementing the new law. A number of other health organizations are simply unaware of the act’s requirements. 

Luckily, it isn’t too late to get back on track and ensure your organization is compliant with the 21st Century Cures Act and its numerous deadlines. Software solutions like fhirstation by Iron Bridge are specifically developed to help your organization provide seamless and efficient EHR access to patients. 

Fhirstation by Iron Bridge: Top IT Solution for Healthcare Providers

How fhirstation Helps Healthcare Providers Abide by the 21st Century Cures Act

fhirstation by iron bridge

It is critical for healthcare providers to go above and beyond the baseline regulations for providing patient access to EHRs. That’s why Iron Bridge built fhirstation, a turn-key scalable multi-tenant Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. Fhirstation offers a number of features, including:

  • Powerful data analytics tools
  • SMART on FHIR technology ready for patient access
  • Data storage inside Native FHIR v4 data models, which removes the need to translate information to a proprietary API and data model in order to access it
  • Adapters for EHR and health plan data

Because fhirstation is designed for the 21st Century Cures Act and ONC and CMS Interoperability Final Rule of 2020, you can also rest assured that your current systems follow federal regulations. By using this cutting edge SaaS solution, you can increase your rate of patient usage of their personal health information. 

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, researchers and healthcare providers will be able to accelerate medical product development and bring these new technologies to patients faster than ever. Iron Bridge is dedicated to aiding this process by offering innovative patient access solutions that help healthcare providers become compliant under the new Final Rule. To learn more about our healthcare IT solutions, contact the team at Iron Bridge today.

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