Patients accessing medical records online more than ever

With the adoption of EHRs and patients' growing demand for access to information, the rate at which hospitals are offering electronic capabilities — and that patients are using them — has skyrocketed in the past three years. Where patients previously had to submit a formal request to a hospital's medical records department for a paper copy, patients are now taking advantage of the digitization of healthcare. For example, in 2015, 92 percent of hospitals offer patients the ability to view their medical records online, a significant increase from the 43 percent who offered the ability in 2013, according to an American Hospital Association report.

In other examples, 30 percent of hospitals allowed patients to download information from their medical record in 2013. That increased to 80 percent in 2014 and 84 percent in 2015. Thirty-five percent of hospitals allowed patients to request changes to medical records in 2013, growing to 71 percent in 2014 and 78 percent in 2015.

And, hospitals are offering more ways to complete routine medical tasks online, like paying bills, scheduling appointments and refilling prescriptions. Where 56 percent of hospitals offered patients the capability to pay bills online in 2013, 74 percent did so in 2015. The growth is smaller, but still significant, for scheduling appointments (31 percent in 2013 compared to 45 percent in 2015) and refilling prescriptions (30 percent in 2013 compared to 44 percent in 2015).

Healthcare still has some ways to go in terms of patient-provider online communication. In 2015, 63 percent of hospitals allow patients to securely message care providers online, up from 55 percent in 2014. Just 37 percent of hospitals allow patients to submit patient-generated data to their provider, but this is still a significant growth from the 14 percent that had this capability in 2013.

"Hospitals are offering individuals more electronic access to their medical information than ever before. Patients also have a growing ability to interact with their providers and to perform routine tasks online," according to the report. "As more hospitals are able to offer these services, individuals will have more insight into their medical data and the ability to interact with care providers at times and in ways that are convenient for the patient."

The report gathered data from the 2015 AHA Annual Survey Information Technology Supplement.

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