Electronic Health Records
As hospitals continue adopting EHR systems, a recent study suggests a feature that may be worth including:

Giving patients access to their own electronic health records.

Most doctors will agree that providers should share information with their patients. However, according a recent survey conducted by Accenture, they also feel that patient access to records should be limited.

Of the 3,700 doctors surveyed, 82% said they would invite patients to update their own health records online. Those doctors believe patients and healthcare providers can both benefit from patients having the ability to update data such as:

  • Demographic information
  • Family medical history
  • Medications
  • Allergies
  • New symptoms
  • Self-measured metrics, such as blood pressure levels.

While the vast majority of physicians believe patient access to EHR is a good idea, only 21% of the doctors surveyed currently allow patients to view and edit the most basic form of their health record: the medical summary or patient chart.

Whether or not to allow access to entire reports is an idea that divides many pro-patient-access physicians, however. Just 31% of surveyed doctors think patients should have access to their entire EHR. Most providers want limits in regards to what information patients can edit themselves.

Reported Benefits

If you’re a provider who has been holding back on implementing patient portals and sharing records, you may want to think again.

Giving patients the opportunity to view and edit their records can increase a patient’s engagement in their care and improve their overall experience, according to a recent study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Those researchers spoke with 30 patients participating in a pilot program called My HealtheVet at the Portland VA Medical Center. Patients there were given access to their entire EHR, including test results and clinical notes.

Some of the benefits of EHR access reported in the study included:

  • Patients were more aware of their own conditions and felt better prepared for appointments with their doctors because they were able to review their records beforehand.
  • Seeing their health information in writing inspired patients to improve their self-care and helped them make decisions about what additional care was needed.
  • Participants appreciated being able to refer to their records when they couldn’t remember something their doctor said.
  • Checking their own records helped them to remember to schedule follow-up appointments.
  • It was easier for patients to share records with other providers when they had access to the records themselves.

Should You Take Caution?

Some healthcare providers may need to be more thoughtful about what they include in health records if patients are going to have full access.

Patients who participated in the study did have some negative feelings about being given access to their records. These were cases in which the doctor wrote something disrespectful, included information that the patient was not made aware of previously, or included information that was inconsistent with previous records or conversations.

What is your opinion of patient-accessible EHR? Would you be willing to allow your patients to access their entire record?