ONC report finds patients have difficulty completing health records requests

Although patient data is may be available electronically, patients and caregivers expressed challenges accessing it, a new ONC report found.

For the report, titled "Improving the Health Records Request Process for Patients," the ONC interviewed 17 consumers about their experiences accessing patient data. It also analyzed the medical record release process from 50 health systems and hospitals across 32 states.

When completing transfers, patients said the process is lengthy and confusing, adding that they don't always understand their rights under HIPAA. Additionally, patients reported mistakes and missing sections of care in their transferred records, resulting in repeated or unnecessary tests and procedures.

"Patients often feel as though they're sending their record requests into a black box — they are rarely notified if their request was received and processed and have little understanding of what is involved in fulfilling a request," the report reads. 

The ONC recommends healthcare providers improve these processes by updating patient portals or establishing an electronic records request system outside of the patient portal. Using user-friendly, plain language request forms and an e-verification tool would also create greater transparency and streamline the process, according to the ONC.

"Healthcare practices have the opportunity now to improve their records request processes and reduce the burden on consumers," reads the report.

Click here to view the full report.

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